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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL OPENS COORDINATION SEGMENT, ADOPTS FOUR RESOLUTIONS ON REGIONAL COMMISSIONS
5 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council this morning opened its Coordination Segment and held a dialogue with its regional commissions on regional perspectives on the post-2015 development agenda.  The Council also adopted four resolutions recommended to it by its regional commissions.

In the resolutions, the Council endorsed the outcome of the review of the 2005 Reform of the Economic Commission for Europe; endorsed the updated statute of the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning; endorsed the conference structure of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and endorsed the revised statute of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization.

Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, in opening remarks, said that the aim of today’s meeting on regional coordination was to consider ways of improving coordination activities and of reinforcing the support provided by the Economic and Social Council.  The Ministerial Declaration of 2012 had urged the Council to intensify efforts in order to promote equitable and sustainable productivity and growth, decent employment, and the elimination of poverty in the context of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.    

Noeleen Heyzer, Coordinator of the regional commissions and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, introducing the Secretary-General’s report (E/2013/15), (E/2013/15/Add.1) and (E/2013/15/Add.2), said that the report provided a visional perspective on efforts to accelerate progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals and efforts to develop the post-2015 agenda.  The Secretary-General had launched a campaign in April this year marking the number of days left to reaching the Millennium Development Goals. 

Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, said that the commission had dedicated two sessions to the post-2015 agenda, including the organization of an Arab civil society meeting and of a regional implementation meeting to discuss sustainable development priorities.  Issues of education, gender equality and social justice were priorities for the Arab region, as was environmental sustainability.  In designing the post-2015 agenda, there was a marked need for a more comprehensive approach to development while accounting for regional and national specificities.

Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, said there had been two tracks in the history of the Millennium Development Goals, one technical and one political.  The technical track contained significant work from statisticians, and efforts to define a poverty line and a common framework to look at indicators by a number of international organizations.  The post-2015 development agenda should include elements for mutual accountability, including looking at enabling factors. 

Ms. Heyzer, speaking in her capacity as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said that the achievements of the region over the past five decades offered reasons for optimism.  The next phase of development had to be more people centred, planet sensitive, generate jobs and share prosperity.  Regional cooperation should leverage national interest for public good and the engagement with global institutions and other regions was essential.  Business as usual was not an option and the region would continue to grow in a sustainable manner, on the basis of the building blocks some of its Member States had identified.

Antonio Prado, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that many of the targets set would be reached by 2015 but others would not.  Growth was needed for equality and equality was needed for long-term growth.  Employment creation remained an important issue for the region as did poverty reduction, bearing in mind that some segments of the population were more vulnerable to poverty than others.  Productivity had not reached the desirable level, and the equal distribution of productivity generated was fundamental for the creation of decent jobs. 

Andrey Vasilev, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, said that the agenda should go beyond the Millennium Development Goals and, within a truly global framework, should be flexible enough to recognise specific regional and national challenges.  A new approach should look at the economy, society and the environment as a whole, but policies were needed to effectively integrate these pillars of sustainable development.  A renewed emphasis on full employment and decent jobs, greater investment in quality health and education services, stronger social protection, and a commitment to end gender equalities were needed in the region. 
 
Participating in the interactive discussion were Russian Federation, Ethiopia, Sudan, Belarus, Jordan, Gabon and South Africa.

The Economic and Social Council will resume its work this afternoon, at 3 p.m., when it will hear the presentation of the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the 2012 ministerial declaration and then hold a panel discussion on “Partnerships for productive capacity and decent work”.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (E/2013/15).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Secretary-General concerning matters calling for action by the Economic and Social Council:
Economic Commission for Europe (E/2013/15/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Secretary-General concerning matters calling for action by the Economic and Social Council or brought to its attention: Economic Commission for Africa and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific(E/2013/15/Add.2).

The Council has before it the report on the Economic situation in the Economic Commission for Europe region: Europe, North America and the Commonwealth of
Independent States in 2012-2013 (E/2013/16).

The Council has before it the report on the Overview of economic and social conditions in Africa, 2012-2013 (E/2013/17).

The Council has before it the Summary of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2013 (E/2013/18).

The Council has before it the report on the Latin America and the Caribbean: economic situation and outlook, 2012-2013 (E/2013/19).

The Council has before it the report on the Summary of the survey of economic and social developments in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
region, 2012-2013 (E/2013/20).

The Council has before it the report on the Project for a Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar: report on activities carried out during the period
2006-2013 and programme proposed for the period 2013-2015 (E/213/21).

Opening Remarks

DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, in opening remarks, said that the aim of today’s meeting on regional coordination was to consider ways of improving coordination activities and of reinforcing the support provided by the Economic and Social Council.  The Ministerial Declaration of 2012 had urged the Council to intensify efforts in order to promote equitable and sustainable productivity and growth, decent employment, and the elimination of poverty in the context of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.    

Dialogue with the Regional Commissions on Regional Perspectives on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

NOELEEN HEYZER, Coordinator of the Regional Commissions and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, introducing the Secretary-General’s report (E/2013/15), (E/2013/15/Add.1) and (E/2013/15/Add.2), said that the report provided a visional perspective on efforts to accelerate progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals and efforts to develop the post-2015 agenda.  The Secretary-General had launched a campaign in April this year marking the number of days left to reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  In Africa, average economic growth remained strong, and progress could be sustained by tackling challenges concerning infrastructure.  In Europe, vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities and low-income families, had been hit hard by the financial crisis, and job creation was now a top priority for the entire continent.  Concerning Latin America, the entire region remained very heterogeneous and had the worst income distribution in the world, with the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, on the one hand, and poor countries on the other hand.  Environmental protection and economic equality were major issues for the post-2015 agenda.  Concerning the Asia-Pacific region, progress varied among countries, from economic power-houses to least developed countries and landlocked States.  Addressing inclusive economic development and building resilience to the economic crisis, including natural disasters, was important for the region.  In the Arab world, high-income countries would attain most of the Millennium Development Goals, while least developed countries were off track.  Conflict and the empowering of women were some of the main remaining challenges in the region.  Attention should be paid to governance issues and the creation of effective accountable institutions in the region.

Economic cooperation on migration issues was important in general, said Ms. Heyzer.  Accurate data on migration remained very difficult to obtain, so it was essential to focus on collecting, updating and reporting international migration data.  The Secretary-General’s report submitted a number of policy recommendations, including the promotion of investment and data collection, developing regional migration networks, assisting governments and regional organizations to develop the necessary capacities to implement strategies and policies at all levels, and ensuring coherent responses from the United Nations system to migration issues.  The report also highlighted the need to work together at the regional level in order to create synergies, to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, to further strengthen coordination, and to enhance regional and South-South cooperation.
  
RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia, presenting some of the activities of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia, said that at the global level it had contributed to the preparation of the report of the Secretary-General published in June 2012.  At the regional level, it had dedicated two sessions to the post-2015 agenda, including the organization of an Arab civil society meeting and of a regional implementation meeting to discuss sustainable development priorities.  Moreover, regional consultations were planned for later this year.  The Joint Regional Commissions’ Report: Priorities for the Arab Region highlighted the need to adapt global goals to regional and national goals, identified key messages to inform global debate, and called for a nuanced approach which addressed regional specificities within the global development agenda.  Issues of education, gender equality and social justice were priorities for the Arab region, as was environmental sustainability.  Democratic governance, citizen participation and institutional effectiveness were prerequisites for achieving a sustainable path to development.  Regarding the outcome document on the Arab region, it reaffirmed the region’s commitment to sustainable development, highlighted key regional messages to convey to the international community, and outlined the Arab regional priorities.  As the region moved ahead, they needed to benefit from their experience with Millennium Development Goals and learn from the weaknesses of that initiative, including its inability to incorporate some of the main concepts of the Millennium Declaration, and insufficient priorities accorded to the enablers of development.  The Millennium Development Goals framework had focused more on the expected outcomes for sustainable development instead of paying closer attention to the means of achieving those outcomes.  In designing the post-2015 agenda, there was a marked need for a more comprehensive approach to development while accounting for regional and national specificities.

CARLOS LOPES, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, highlighted a number of elements in the history of the Millennium Development Goals.  There had been two tracks, one technical and one political.  The Summit had been an effort to build consensus in a different way and, in terms of methodology, it was interesting to consider how consensus had been achieved.  The technical track contained significant work from statisticians, and efforts to define a poverty line and a common framework to look at indicators by a number of international organizations.  The main gain from the Millennium Development Goals had been to move from policy prescriptions, from the area of structural adjustments to goals and policy space.  The Millennium Development Goals had also contributed to rallying efforts, focusing the agenda and placing the United Nations at the centre of debates about development.  One of the problems, however, was that the goals had not been universal and therefore could fall into a patronising exercise; and this was related to the way in which the goals were translated into national targets.  With regards to the post-2015 development agenda, African States had unanimously agreed that it should emphasize inclusiveness, economic growth and structural transformation, which meant industrialization, modernization and the creation of jobs.  The development paradigm should be realigned to reflect national priorities and ownership.  Greater attention should also be paid to vulnerable groups and recognise their potential.  African States were also interested in the idea of a green economy and how it could contribute to the African agenda.  The post-2015 development agenda should also include elements for mutual accountability, including looking at enabling factors. 

NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said that the achievements of the region over the past five decades offered reasons for optimism.  The next phase of development had to be more people centred, planet sensitive, generate jobs and share prosperity.  The economic outlook of the region continued to be subdued growth and the fiscal crisis in the Eurozone and policy uncertainty in the United States were amidst the key policy challenges.  While the region had seen major achievements regarding some of the Millennium Goals, there were significant disparities among countries and sub regions and the region still accounted for the bulk of people living in extreme poverty and a large number of people without access to sanitation.  The post-2015 development agenda should drive transformative change and move away from a “one size fits all” including, among its priorities, the elimination of poverty, hunger and malnutrition; full and productive employment for all; comprehensive gender equality; health care and education for all; drinking water, sanitation and electricity for all; sustainable use of natural resources; and strong and well defined global partnership.  National action would be primary but the importance of external factors influencing national progress was also recognised.  Regional cooperation should leverage national interest for public good and the engagement with global institutions and other regions was essential.  Business as usual was not an option and the region would continue to grow in a sustainable manner, on the basis of the building blocks some of its Member States had identified.

ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that many of the targets set would be reached by 2015 but others would not.  Given that Latin America had gone through a difficult time in the past 10 years, progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals had been impressive.  Since 1990, the reduction of extreme poverty had been very fast.  It had gone from 22.6 per cent to 11.4 per cent but eradication had not been achieved and remained a goal.  Latin America remained a very unequal region in terms of income distribution.  Inequality in general was the main problem of the region and one of the Economic Commission’s priority issues to tackle.  Mr. Prado stressed that growth was needed for equality and equality was needed for long-term growth.  Employment creation remained an important issue for the region as did poverty reduction, bearing in mind that some segments of the population were more vulnerable to poverty than others.  Productivity had not reached the desirable level, and the equal distribution of productivity generated was fundamental for the creation of decent jobs.  Concerning the provision of education, what mattered the most was the provision of quality education.  Addressing the question of what could be done to improve the situation, Mr. Prado said that action should be taken to ensure improved access to the job market and to public services for women, and structural changes were needed to tackle the challenge of inequality and maintain long-term growth.  Taxation and investment were also very important to ensure that productivity growth and innovation were sufficiently promoted.   

ANDREY VASILEV, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe, said that the European region included highly diverse countries and, as a microcosm of global challenges, it offered lessons for the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda including the need for universality, sustainable development, reducing inequalities and effective implementation.  The agenda should go beyond the Millennium Development Goals and, within a truly global framework, should be flexible enough to recognise specific regional and national challenges.  A new approach should look at the economy, society and the environment as a whole, but policies were needed to effectively integrate these pillars of sustainable development.  Mr. Vasilev noted that while the region was relatively prosperous and counted with middle income countries, there were concerns about rising income and wealth inequalities across the region and the social exclusion experienced by marginalized groups.  A renewed emphasis on full employment and decent jobs, greater investment in quality health and education services, stronger social protection, and a commitment to end gender equalities were needed in the region.  New approaches to policy making would also be needed to implement the new agenda, including the design and implementation of whole-of-government strategies, public-private partnerships, further developing sub-regional, regional, and global cooperation, good governance, and the implementation of data collection and accountability and monitoring mechanisms.  Mr. Vasilev also provided examples of the work of the regional commission in the areas of water management, sustainable transport, measurement of sustainable development, and sustainable cities; and said they remained willing to share their experiences and expertise with other regions.

Russian Federation said that additional impetus would be given to the work of the Council by the July Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Eurasian Economic Commission.  The global community was looking for new concerted action to achieve the main objectives of economic growth, and further efforts were needed to ensure sustainable development, building on the Rio+20 Conference.  Regional Commissions had an important role to play in the implementation of commitments in the fields of housing, transport, forestry and the provision of technical assistance in trade.     

Ethiopia said that there was enough time to make further progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Africa had made significant progress, not least thanks to the international cooperation which had been facilitated by the United Nations framework.  There was a danger that their focus on eliminating extreme poverty might be undermined by the introduction of a large number of objectives in the post-2015 agenda.  Improving infrastructure in Africa was important, but how could local funding be reinforced by external financing?

Sudan said that the presentations made this morning failed to talk about obstacles being put in place by the developed countries known as “development donors” who failed to meet their international obligations.  African countries emerging from conflict were striving to achieve a better development rate, but other countries should honour their commitments in terms of debt relief.  The economic growth achieved in Africa was the result of local efforts, which included a high level of political, academic and economic awareness, and the return of highly skilled staff from the West.

Belarus said that the role assigned to the Regional Commissions was very important because regional cooperation could act as the basis for achieving sustainable development.  Trade, transport and environmental protection were all truly global goals because they were relevant to all regions, irrespective of disparities in economic growth.  Belarus fully supported the process of regional cooperation, but expressed concern at the ongoing trend of financing most activities from extra-budgetary sources.  
 
Jordan said it had been one of the first countries to integrate the Millennium Development Goals into national development plans and was close to achieving most of the goals.  Significant progress had been made, in particular on the targets relating to gender parity, combating poverty and protecting the environment.  Jordan also underscored the need to pool efforts and to strengthen the work done across institutions to tackle challenges and sustain previous achievements.

Gabon expressed appreciation for Mr. Lopes’ remarks about the history behind the development of the Millennium Development Goals and said that while the establishment of stable political systems had represented a significant contribution to their achievement, weaknesses remained, for example, in maternal mortality.  Gabon welcomed the priorities established by African countries for the post-2015 development agenda and highlighted in the presentation.  The achievement of these goals also required peace and security which was lacking in many countries.

South Africa stressed the importance of policy space for the African continent and said that inclusive questions about growth, industrialization, equity and mutual accountability were all important.  The principles of Rio, common but differentiated responsibility, were also important, as well as financing.

RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Africa, said that coordination among regional commissions remained a priority.  Concerning the definition of sustainable development, the regional commissions would also endeavour to avoid marginalising any sector of the population.  In Arab countries, the regional commission had noted a significant progress in schooling rates for girls but progress remained to be achieved in the creation of good quality jobs.  

CARLOS LOPES, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, said that the Millennium Development Goals had not only contributed to devising a more focused agenda, but they had also made a contribution to Africa’s transformation.  Issues of infrastructure required a certain type of financing; it was difficult to get development aid to contribute because it would be reluctant to engage in long-term financing activities without immediate or short-term results.  The need to improve infrastructure was an important part of the transformation of the African continent, and, to that end, the Economic Commission for Africa had been working with the African Development Bank in order to ensure that specific financing requirements were met.  The Commission was also working on the capacity of national statistics companies and had identified many funders willing to invest money in that.  Mr. Lopes stressed that the availability of accurate statistical data was important for better planning and for devising more effective strategies.  He also said that it was important not to politicize issues which were eminently economic and which should be treated exclusively from an economic perspective.  African countries were taking seriously the accountability issue and therefore also expected greater accountability from international bodies.      

ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that progress on indicators had been important and there had been a significant reduction in poverty but, despite some reduction, inequality remained high.  For these reasons two documents had been produced addressing the issues of equality and structural change; States recognised that this was an important issue and that it should be addressed.

ANDREY VASILEV, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe, responding to the questions from Russia and Belarus about the implementation of the Rio+20, noted that some measures would be programmatic and some as a regional forum.  The regional forum counted with an outline that needed to be fleshed out.  There had to be a number of entry points, thematic or functional, and it was difficult to decide what could be done as a forum until this was achieved.  For example, transportation could be addressed from a number of entry points, energy, food, print, etc.  Different intergovernmental bodies had had advanced discussions on sustainable development and in a number of areas a global mandate could merge efforts already being carried out at a regional level, sharing good practices with other regions. 

NOELEEN HEYZER, Coordinator of the Regional Commissions and Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and panel moderator, said that all Regional Commissions would be strengthened but the economic crisis, which had created resource constraints, made this endeavour more challenging.  The Asia-Pacific region was especially important because of its constant interaction with all the other regions.  A new model of development had emerged, focusing on developing regional markets, and it was now necessary to think about investing in regional connectivity and infrastructure, including trade facilitation and knowledge-sharing.  Unfortunately, Asia-Pacific did not have the institutional mechanisms and financial architecture to release some of the enormous reserves it possessed.  The matter was currently being discussed and efforts were being made to identify ways of creating the necessary institutional mechanisms.       

Action on Resolutions

ECOSOC adopted the following resolutions: a resolution on the outcome of the review of the 2005 Reform of the Economic Commission for Europe (E/2013/15/Add.1),in which it endorses the outcome of the review of the 2005 Reform of the Economic Commission for Europe, as set out in the annex to the present resolution; a resolution on refocusing and recalibrating the Economic Commission for Africa to support Africa’s structural transformation (E/2013/15/Add.2), in which it endorses the updated statute of the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, as set out in the annex to the present resolution; a resolution on a conference structure of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for the inclusive and sustainable development of Asia and the Pacific (E/2013/15/Add.2), in which it endorses the conference structure of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, as set out in annexes I, II and III to the present resolution; and a resolution on a statute of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (E/2013/15/Add.2), in which it endorses the revised statute of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization, as set out in the Annex to the present resolution.


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ECOSOC13/011E


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