Posted by: africanpressorganization | 9 July 2008

Developing countries / Increased investment in agriculture in developing countries can be ‘trigger’ for economic growth, poverty reduction, ECOSOC told / Panel Discussions: Rural Development and Challenges of Social Welfare;Role of Council in Addressing Violence against Women in all Manifestations


 

Developing countries / Increased investment in agriculture in developing countries can be ‘trigger’ for economic growth, poverty reduction, ECOSOC told /

 Panel Discussions:  Rural Development and Challenges of Social Welfare;

Role of Council in Addressing Violence against Women in all Manifestations

 

NEW YORK, USA, July 9, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ — While 75 per cent of the world’s poor lived in rural areas and were involved in farming, a mere 4 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) was earmarked for agriculture in developing countries, experts told the Economic and Social Council today, as they urged scaling up investments that could spur new opportunities for agriculture and open multiple pathways out of poverty.

 

Opening the second expert panel discussion of the Economic and Social Council’s 2008 coordination segment, Council Vice-President Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima of Cape Verde said that farming was a source of livelihoods for billions, and agriculture and rural development deserved renewed attention as a “trigger” for economic growth, poverty reduction and development.

 

Indeed, the World Bank’s 2008 World Development Report underscored that gross domestic product (GDP) growth from agriculture activities could benefit the poor 2 to 4 times more than that from non-agriculture activities, and recommended that, if the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 was to be met, agriculture must be at the centre of the development agenda.  “Without a doubt […] Governments and donors need to readjust their priorities to give more prominence to agricultural and rural development,” he said.

 

The theme of this year’s coordination segment is the role of the United Nations system in implementing the Ministerial Declaration of the high-level segment of the Council’s 2007 substantive session, under which it called for strengthened efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, including through the global partnership for development.  Today, the Council also heard 13 speakers during the coordination segment’s general discussion, and held a dialogue with the chairpersons of its functional commissions on the Council’s role in addressing violence against women in all its forms and manifestations.

 

The panel on “Rural development and the challenges of social welfare: A country-level perspective”, focused on Mozambique, one of eight pilot countries recommended by the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence to participate in the two year-old “Delivering as One” development initiative.  That project is a litmus test on how the United Nations family -– with its many and diverse agencies — can deliver at the country level in a more coordinated way, and ensure faster and more effective development operations.

 

Bunmi Makinwa, Director of the Africa Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), discussed Mozambique’s overall social situation to illustrate how economic development must go hand in hand with social development.  He said that 65 per cent of the country’s 20 million people lived in rural areas, and women constituted 52 per cent of the total population.  In recent years, the southern African country had registered between 6 and 7 per cent GDP growth, as the number of people in the agriculture sector had continued to drop.

 

While Mozambique was one of the few countries where a woman held the Prime Minister post, women generally did not hold decision-making positions.  Indeed, economic growth did not necessarily indicate that social development followed in tandem.  Against that background, he explained that UNFPA’s work focused on three general areas: young people; women; and population and census.  Regarding young people, UNFPA’s sexual and reproductive health programme met the needs of youth and adolescents at various levels.  On women, he said workshops had been held to encourage women to take part in decision-making, especially in rural areas.

 

It was clear that if Mozambique made the expected progress on young people and women, both economic and social development would succeed.  Overall, he said, Mozambique’s trajectory was “very positive” and “significant progress” was being made in various areas.  The challenge was in ensuring that economic development translated into social development.

 

Highlighting World Food Programme (WFP) operations, Allan Jury, Director of the agency’s Division of External Relations, said Mozambique’s strategy had really provided a guide to the United Nations and other partners in the area of programme reform and implementing solid programme objectives.  Experience there and elsewhere had shown that stakeholders must focus on programmes that integrated agricultural and rural development.  The programmes must be clearly led by national Governments, be based on national needs assessments and include health and education elements.  That approach would go a long way towards reconciling some of the tensions between economic growth and social development, he added.

 

WFP was targeting, among others, farmers’ associations; environmental mainstreaming; HIV/AIDS; social safety nets; and neonatal child services, health and nutrition.  Its programmes aimed at providing a “total package” that included education and health elements and provided basic necessities such as food for the most vulnerable.  That “enabling development strategy” sought to bring the poor up to a level where they didn’t have to exhaust all their energy and meagre resources “just to survive”, he said.

 

He also highlighted the “Purchase for Progress” programme, a new global initiative spearheaded by WFP to connect low-income farmers to world markets.  The programme envisaged the development of agricultural markets in such a way that many more low-income or smallholder farmers, especially women, would produce surpluses of food, sell them at a fair price and increase their incomes, making education, sanitation and health services more accessible.  Pilot programmes were already under way in one province and it would roll out fully in the fall.

 

The afternoon dialogue on the Council’s role in addressing all forms of violence against women was moderated by Olivier Belle (Belgium), Chairperson, Commission on the Status of Women, and included panellists Lorena Giménez (Venezuela), Vice-Chairperson, Commission for Social Development; Pali Lehohla ( South Africa), Chairperson, Statistical Commission; and Elena Zuñiga ( Mexico), Chairperson, Commission on Population and Development.

 

During the discussion, Mr. Belle stressed that the Council could bring attention to the issue, and was, in fact, already doing so in today’s round table. Yet, it was possible that other initiatives could be suggested through political leadership in the Council.  Still, he stressed that work on the issue needed to move forward on multiple fronts, starting with a focus on prevention.  “Mentalities need to change and a focus on empowerment is important,” he said.

 

Also today, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs introduced the report of the Secretary-General on role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits (document A/63/83-E/2008/77).

 

Participating in the general debate on coordination matters were the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda (speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), France (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Russian Federation, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, China, United States, Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Belarus, Congo and Nigeria.

 

The Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.

 

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 9 July, to conclude its coordination segment and hold a round table discussion on “Coherence: strengthening the normative and operational link in the work of the United Nations on rural employment”.

 

Background

 

The Economic and Social Council met today to continue the coordination segment of its annual session.  It had before it two reports from the Secretary-General.  For information on the first report, on the role of the United Nations system in implementing the ministerial declaration of the high-level segment of the substantive session of 2007 of the Council (document E/2008/21), see Press Release ECOSOC/6356.

 

The second report, on the role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, in the light of relevant General Assembly resolutions, including resolution 61/16 (document A/63/83-E/2008/77), states that, with the launching of the Annual Ministerial Review, the process of integrated and coordinated follow-up to conferences has become more substantive and visible.  This progress should be nurtured by full support from functional commissions and the funds, programmes and specialized agencies of the United Nations system.  Structural and procedural changes for making the Economic and Social Council system more coherent and integrative will, however, need to be reviewed at regular intervals.  A triennial approach may be the best way to address this dimension of integrated follow-up.

 

Panel Discussion

 

A panel discussion on “Rural development and the challenges of social welfare: A country-level perspective” was chaired by Council Vice-President Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima (Cape Verde) and featured Bunmi Makinwa, Director of the Africa Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Allan Jury, Director of the Division of External Relations of the World Food Programme (WFP).

 

Mr. LIMA opened the discussion, saying that the global community had witnessed renewed attention to agriculture and rural development as a “trigger” for economic growth, poverty reduction and development.  Indeed, the World Bank’s 2008 World Development Report underscored that gross domestic product (GDP) growth from agriculture activities could benefit the poor 2 to 4 times more than that from non-agriculture activities, recommending that agriculture be at the centre of the development agenda, if the goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 was to be met.

 

Citing World Bank data, he said that, while 75 per cent of the world’s poor lived in rural areas, a mere 4 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) flowed to agriculture in developing countries.  In sub-Saharan Africa, which relied on agriculture for overall growth, public spending on farming constituted only 4 per cent of total Government spending.  Reform of the sector in developing countries faced the challenge of ensuring that investments increased the economic and social prospects for the poor.

 

Mr. MAKINWA then took the floor and discussed Mozambique’s overall social situation to illustrate how economic development must go hand in hand with social development.  He said that 65 per cent of the country’s 20 million people lived in rural areas, and women constituted 52 per cent of the total population.  In recent years, the country had registered between 6 and 7 per cent GDP growth, as the number of people in the agriculture sector had continued to drop.  In addition, service provision had grown — from 9 per cent to about 15 per cent in the past 10 years.  The Government had outlined 12 pillars for development, 4 of which were in the area of social development, especially health.  While Mozambique was one of the few countries in which a woman held the Prime Minister post, women generally did not hold decision-making positions.  Indeed, economic growth did not necessarily indicate that social development followed in tandem.

 

With that background, he explained that UNFPA’s work focused on three general areas: young people; women; and population and census.  Regarding young people, UNFPA’s sexual and reproductive health programme had met the needs of youth and adolescents at various levels.  On women, he said workshops had been held to encourage women to take part in decision-making, especially in rural areas.  UNFPA had recently conducted a census, the results of which would be used in development planning.  It was clear that, if Mozambique made the expected progress on young people and women, economic and social development would succeed.  In the humanitarian area, UNFPA provided support to women in Mozambique -– including pregnant women — to mitigate the effects of drought, among other things.  In closing, he said Mozambique’s trajectory was “very positive” and “significant progress” was being made in various areas.  The challenge was in ensuring that economic development translated into social development.

 

Mr. JURY, highlighting WFP operations in Mozambique, said that the country was very good example of international efforts to boost rural and agricultural development under the leadership of a national Government, while pursuing broader development.  It was a pilot country for United Nations reform and was a programme country for the nearly two-year-old “Delivering as One” initiative.  Donors had been truly engaged in building a nationally owned process based on a national poverty reduction strategy.  ” Mozambique’s strategy has really provided a guide to the United Nations and other partners in the area of programme reform and implementing solid programme objectives,” he added.

 

That programme had also shown that focusing on objectives and identifying needs “is the way to go”, he said, adding that WFP had targeted farmers’ associations; environmental mainstreaming to cope with global warming; disaster risk reduction; HIV/AIDS; social safety nets for the most vulnerable; and neonatal child services, health and nutrition.  In addition, WFP tried to contribute to increasing peoples’ productivity to help them get out of poverty.

 

WFP programmes in Mozambique aimed at providing a “total package” that included education and health elements, he continued.  WFP also focused on protecting and providing basic services for the most marginalized.  He stressed that providing basic necessities, such as food and health care for the very poor and most vulnerable, allowed them to focus on achieving broader development.  That “enabling development” strategy sought to bring the poor up to a level where they didn’t have to expend most of their energy and meagre resources “just to survive”.  Along with the most marginalized people, that programme also targeted elderly people, HIV/AIDS patients and persons with disabilities.

 

He went on to say that WFP believed that disasters were not isolated events, but shocks that could affect a developing country’s entire development strategy.  Therefore, the agency’s disaster response initiatives in Mozambique — focused on drought and flood management and mitigation –- had been comprehensive and integrated.  Moreover, they had yielded positive results, as, earlier this year, the Government had been able to cope with the floods better and international assistance, while significant, had been much less than in years past.  He added that WFP was also assisting the Government in its efforts to cushion the shock of rising food prices, including in the areas of school feeding programmes.

 

He also highlighted the “Purchase for Progress” programme, a new global initiative that included WFP, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other partner agencies, which provided assistance to smallholder farmers, especially women, to help them sell their food and produce to broader global markets.  That programme focused on building commodity value chains and joint linkages for farmers, and included training, credit and marketing strategies.  Pilot programmes were already under way in one province and it would roll out fully in the fall.

 

Finally, he said that the international community must focus on joint programmes that took an integrated approach to agricultural and rural development.  Such efforts must be clearly led by national Governments and include health and education elements.  Such an approach would go a long way towards reconciling some of the tensions between economic growth and social development, he added.

 

Responding to a brief round of questions, Mr. MAKINWA said that social intervention in rural areas was particularly significant in Mozambique, which had a large population of poor rural women, who, if they were reached and provided with quality education, tools and access, could be a crucial resource for the country’s broader development.  “Rural women in Mozambique are a resource that needs to be tapped,” he said.  Economic development was the key to growth in all countries, and in very poor and underdeveloped countries it must be accompanied by broad social development.

 

Deliberate efforts –- targeted policies and programmes –- to balance economic and social development were required to ensure that everyone had access to services, education and opportunities, he continued.  While Mozambique’s Prime Minister was a woman, the Government’s effort to bring all women into the mainstream was “still a work in progress”, as many were trapped in poverty in rural areas.

 

On the thought behind choosing Mozambique as a “Delivering as One” pilot country, he said that, over the years, Mozambique, with its record of good governance, accountability and excellent collaboration with international partners, had attracted much interest from development partners.  While it was perhaps too early to tell if the pilot programme had significantly benefited development, it was certainly clear that being labelled a programme country for “Delivering as One” had drawn even more donor interest in Mozambique’s development.

 

Mr. JURY said that experience had proved that investment in women — women’s education and health, for instance — was the single greatest investment that could be made in hunger reduction, especially since women were most often farmers in rural communities.  At the same time, Mozambique’s national strategy was definitely driven by an economic development component.  But, the two sectors –- economic and social — were not mutually exclusive.  “You have to have the economic growth to drive progress in social areas,” he said, adding that social development objectives also overlapped with economic imperatives.

 

He also said that, since Mozambique had been chosen as a “Delivering as One” programme country, “we have seen an explosion in joint programming in Africa”.  The same was true in another programme country, the United Republic of Tanzania.  At the same time, he stressed, the spirit of the “Delivering as One” programme was already present in the country and, even before the initiative had been launched, the country coordinator had been well ahead in paving the way for joint initiatives.  While he agreed that perhaps it was too early to talk about the effects of the programme on recent development gains in Mozambique, “the signs are certainly promising”.

 

Just before the discussion wrapped up, the ALBERTINA MACDONALD ( Mozambique) thanked the participants for all the positive comments about her country’s progress.  At the same time, she said, the Government was aware that more needed to be done to empower women.  “We are moving forward in this area,” she said, adding that putting women in positions of power or key decision-making posts was not just about boosting numbers, but about giving jobs and opportunities to qualified people who could make a difference.

 

On the “Delivering as One” initiative, she acknowledged that, prior to that programme’s launch, there had been a general feeling that development partners were competing for projects in Mozambique.  But now, under the “one UN” programme and with a redesigned Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, such competing interests had been removed and project issues had been resolved.

 

Statements

 

Beginning the general discussion on the role of the United Nations system in implementing the Ministerial Declaration of the high-level segment of the Council’s 2007 substantive session, CONROD HUNTE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said discussions on a coordinated United Nations response to developing country needs and priorities should be placed in the context of today’s new and emerging challenges, including climate change, food security, the energy crisis and financial instability in developed country markets.  Such phenomena would negatively impact the ability of developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  As such, he welcomed the Council’s focus on food security; rural development and social welfare; and rural employment.  Welcoming the review of the implementation of the 2007 Ministerial Declaration, he also noted the Secretary-General’s recommendations on strengthening national capacity to analyse the social impacts of rural and agricultural development on employment, among other things.

 

He said it was the duty of all countries to promote policies consistent with commitments made at major United Nations conferences and summits, notably those that were “systemic in nature”.  In particular, developed countries must take urgent action to correct the distorting impact of their trade, energy and financial policies –- as well as their unsustainable consumption and production patterns -– on developing country prospects to achieve the Millennium Goals.

 

While the United Nations had improved its coordination through the Chief Executives Board, he said the Board’s coordination could be enhanced through greater intergovernmental oversight.  Developing countries must be kept regularly informed of the Board’s activities.  On ensuring coordinated implementation of the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits, he said each country had primary responsibility for its development through the principle of national ownership.  Guidance provided by General Assembly resolution 62/208, the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review, was crucial in that regard.  The Council should give clear guidance to its subsidiary bodies, and he called on the funds, programmes and specialized agencies to ensure that the Council’s policy guidance was integrated into the programme of work.  He also urged ensuring that they give top priority to poverty eradication and hunger in their thematic focus areas.  In closing, he said the Council must strengthen its role as the central coordination mechanism for the United Nations on those issues.

 

JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Ministerial Declaration adopted last year reiterated the Council’s commitment to eradicate poverty and hunger, placing that high-priority goal at the core of the United Nations operations.  Various courses of action had been defined, which underscored the multidimensional nature of Millennium Goal 1, including the need for sustainable, equitable growth, improved access to social services and promotion of gender equality.  While progress had been made in meeting Goal 1, the overall results concealed the persistence of inequalities between and within countries, while spikes in food and energy prices could jeopardize progress.  Africa was still off track in meeting the Goals, and he looked forward to the high-level meeting on Africa’s development in September.

 

He called for a redoubling of efforts to make inroads in the fight against poverty and hunger, first and foremost at a national level, and then at the international level.  Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals should be accompanied by actions and policies to stimulate global and inclusive economic growth from which the most vulnerable populations could benefit.  Expressing concern that Goal 7 — linked to sustainable development — lagged behind, he stressed the importance of pledges made at the Commission for Sustainable Development.  Further, the European Union would promote a better coordinated international response to the current food crisis, notably through international financial institutions and in the context of the Group of Eight (G-8).  Stressing the importance of analysing the situation in partner countries, the Union attached great importance to strengthening coordination of United Nations actions, including those taken to combat climate change and increase aid effectiveness through the “Delivering as One” approach.

 

In the run-up to the Accra Conference on Aid Effectiveness, he echoed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for more efficient use of existing frameworks in the fight against poverty and hunger, and backed measures introduced by the Chief Executives Board.  In that work, he emphasized avoiding initiatives that could be redundant.

 

VLADIMIR USKOV ( Russian Federation) said his delegation shared the view expressed by the Secretary-General in his reports before the Council on ways to achieve the aims of the Council’s 2007 Ministerial Declaration.  The efforts to achieve global sustainable development, especially poverty eradication, were facing particular challenges, in light of the ongoing food and commodity price crisis.  The Council must, therefore, continue and step up its efforts to carry out its mandate, especially following up implementation of the major United Nations meetings and conferences of the past decade.

 

Further, he said, the United Nations must focus its efforts on building capacities at the national level to ensure development for all.  The Council should steadily advance the Organization’s measures to ensure the broad achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The coordination segment and operational segment of the Council’s current session must be more focused on building national-level programmes and strategies.

 

ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY ( Indonesia) said that, for many developing countries, the current international situation placed additional hurdles along the path to sustainable development.  While recognizing that national Governments bore the primary responsibility for development, without an urgent global response to address current challenges, including the current food and commodity price spikes, it world be difficult, if not impossible, for many developing countries to stay on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  In that context, Indonesia welcomed several key international initiatives, including the Secretary-General’s establishment of a High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis.  It also welcomed the draft comprehensive framework for action issued by the Task Force late last month.

 

She went on to say that, while there had been countless discussions about policy options to deal with the current food crisis, there had been little talk about follow-up mechanisms and how the international community would monitor the effectiveness of the policy options.  Neither had there been any discussion of time frames for the implementation of those policies, nor when hard hit countries could expect relief.   Indonesia believed that the Economic and Social Council could play a role in shepherding those discussions, especially on crafting future food security strategies and early warning systems.

 

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said it was clear, given the reports in front of the Council, that the record of the United Nations in implementing last year’s Ministerial Declaration, which focused on eradicating poverty and hunger, had been mixed.  While the United Nations had played a valuable role in advocating for local particularities in development frameworks, based on the “no-one-size-fits-all” premise, that was less true in the context of bilateral development cooperation.  Currently, the lack of evaluation capacities in many countries meant that donors were adopting uniform evaluation methods across countries, without regard for any regional or national variations.  The United Nations should do more in that regard.

 

There was also room for improvement in the Council’s role in coordinating United Nations actions, he continued.  More meaningful interaction between the Council and the Chief Executives Board was needed, and the Council should use the current coordination segment to enhance that interaction and transparency with the Board.  The United Nations should also do more to promote science and technology as a means of achieving the internationally agreed development goals, as well as the Council’s ministerial declarations.  To that end, it should establish a framework for facilitating technology transfer.  It should also promote developing countries as producers, not mere consumers.

 

AIDA ALZHANOVA ( Kazakhstan) said new challenges today were seen in the incidence of famine, which was due in part to the high cost of food.  Indeed, food problems had affected countries emerging from conflict, as well as developing and developed countries.  Rapid increases in population and biofuel production were also contributing to the problem, and such challenges were relevant for both food importing and exporting countries.  There had been calls for public subsidies and the situation had led to a disruption in macroeconomic stability.  New forms of international cooperation must be found.

 

She said her Government was working to deter inflationary processes and, on that basis, was working to ensure stability.  Agricultural subsidies had been increased to ensure food security.  Further, the Government had earmarked an additional $266 million to purchase grain, in order to augment its supplies.  Funds had also been earmarked for leasing special processing technologies, financing domestic agricultural production and providing loans to be used for enhancing grain crop yields.  Moreover, the Government had established temporary export bans and had temporarily reduced customs duties on core food products.  All major cities had established grain stabilization funds.  In closing, she said that addressing food security would positively impact her country’s economic and social development.

 

OLIVIER CHAVE ( Switzerland) said substantive progress in reducing poverty and hunger worldwide had been uneven and, as the Ministerial Declaration noted, challenges were multidimensional in nature.  Addressing them called for actions across a range of social and productive sectors.  The United Nations might be the best equipped system for addressing the complexity of poverty and hunger.  Therefore, global and vertical initiatives in the Secretary-General’s report must translate into concerted and coordinated actions at the country level, and be integrated into development assistance frameworks.

 

On the issue of urbanization, he said an integrated approach to territorial development was needed; one that combined social, environmental and economic policies concerning rural and urban development.  On the integrated implementation and follow-up to outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits, he was pleased that the Annual Ministerial Review had established a multi-year programme of work, but he would have favoured a longer-term perspective.  Switzerland had always encouraged United Nations agencies to better link their operational activities with their normative capacities, and he failed to understand the recommendation in paragraph 58 of the Secretary-General’s report, which called for closer interaction between the Council, the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, the newly constituted Chief Executives Board structure and the executive boards of funds and programmes.  He would welcome clarification on that issue.  In closing, he recommended that the Council’s coordination segment be dedicated to the implementation of the Ministerial Declaration of the previous year.

 

LIU LIQUN ( China) welcomed the relevant report of the Secretary-General that cited poverty and hunger eradication as a core function of the United Nations system.   China believed that the Organization’s efforts in those areas needed to be coordinated among United Nations agencies as well as with national strategies.  The question could not be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach.  Help should be provided to developing countries to develop specific strategies and policies.   China welcomed the United Nations recent efforts to build the capacities of developing countries to that end.

 

Turning to the current global food, oil and commodity price crisis, he said that China feared that many development gains over the past decade could be lost unless coordinated and urgent international action was taken.  Donor countries must live up to their commitments, especially those made at United Nations conferences and summits.  Further, in the spirit of international partnership and “win-win cooperation”, all stakeholders should take part in the massive global effort that would be needed to address current parallel crises.  The United Nations should continue to coordinate its efforts to remove obstacles that hampered broader achievement of sustainable development.   China also supported the participation of civil society organizations in the work of the United Nations to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the broader international development agenda.

 

BRIAN A. YOUNG ( United States) said the global community had seen the impact of its efforts, as many people had broken away from the effects of poverty.  While States were well aware of the challenges in uncertain economic times, “impressive” growth was also taking place in developing countries.  In Africa, where the challenge of achieving growth was the most difficult, trends were improving.  In Asia, growth had ranged between 3.5 and 7.5 per cent, while trends were also positive in Latin America.  Challenges to eradicating poverty indeed remained, and the Council should not seek overly simplistic solutions.  Urbanization was not the cause of poverty.  It was often said that climate change, regularly listed as the so-called “cause” of natural disasters, and corn-based biofuel production played major roles in the current food crisis.  However, such views ignored more objective factors, and the world could not afford to place blame on one or two causes.  While official development assistance (ODA) could have a catalytic impact, experience had shown that trade and investment were among the drivers of poverty reduction.

 

For its part, the United States supported, among other things, best practices to promote aid effectiveness, he said, and he urged resisting an exclusive focus on the gaps that needed to be filled.  The Millennium Declaration called for more than a narrow focus; it called for supporting processes to enable Governments to provide desperately needed services to their people.  While monitoring in agriculture, trade facilitation, infrastructure and statistics could help States improve development strategies, those areas might be covered by such organizations as the World Trade Organization.  Significant gains would come when agencies focused on their core missions.  Each country must take charge of its own development goals.  The United States supported the goal of eradicating poverty, and supported the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFP and IFAD in their approach to development.  In closing, he said the United States looked forward to working with its global partners in addressing the challenges ahead.

 

THOMAS STELZER, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General (document A/63/83-E/2008/77) and said that, from the conferences of the 1990s to the Millennium Summit, a global consensus had been reached on polices and actions to eradicate poverty and advance sustainable development.  As development issues had been brought to the forefront of the multilateral debate, renewed impetus and direction had been given to the work of the United Nations in the economic and social fields.  The follow-up mechanisms had subsequently framed their work around the internationally agreed development goals, and the Economic and Social Council had played a central role in that follow-up.  The Annual Ministerial Review, launched last year, gave the Council a powerful tool for translating the integrated and coordinated approach into substantive reviews of implementation.

 

The Secretary-General’s report served two purposes, he said.  It highlighted the progress made on the conference follow-up as it related to the Annual Ministerial Review’s 2008 theme.  It also addressed the institutional aspect of the follow-up processes and how to strengthen the link between the normative and operational link of the United Nations system.

 

He said that, although the adoption of the Annual Ministerial Review’s 2008 theme had taken place after most commissions had established their multi-year programmes, many commissions had still contributed to the discussion in a number of ways by focusing on sustainable development and the information requirements to support a well-informed policy debate on climate change.

 

The Annual Ministerial Review had raised the integrated conference follow-up process to the next level by increasing integration and strengthening the Council’s ability to work in a coordinated manner, he said.  But, to have real impact on peoples’ livelihoods, any progress made in the United Nations system’s conceptual and standard-setting work had to be translated into progress at the country level.  To that end, the national voluntary presentations provided an important new opportunity for countries to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

 

But, he added, while the launching of the Annual Ministerial Review had made the process of integrated and coordinated follow-up more substantive and visible, the coordination segment must address how to proceed with the current reporting process on integrated and coordinated follow-up of conferences.  It had been recommended that the report be triennialized, which would provide a reasonable time period before the next overall review. 

 

NEGASH KEBRET BOTORA ( Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said poverty and hunger had been aggravated by financial instability and soaring food and energy prices, challenges that had most affected Africa.  As such, the United Nations should play a proactive role in confronting those issues, rather than pursue the traditional path of reacting to them.  Further progress must also be made to coordinate early collective responses in advance, and the coordination segment must deliver actionable and results-oriented guidelines on major issues.

 

He said the 2007 Ministerial Declaration underscored the importance of coordinating efforts for increasing resources for development and capacity-building in developing countries.  He noted United Nations efforts to comprehensively address such challenges, and appreciated United Nations agencies’ coordinated activities to implement the Declaration through system-wide approaches.  He commended efforts to support African countries in ensuring food security, particularly those undertaken in the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

 

He drew attention to the African Union Summit held last week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and its declaration on responding to high food prices, which called for a global partnership to deal with both its causes and effects.  The Council should give the necessary guidance to its subsidiary bodies, including the funds, programmes and specialized agencies, to implement measures for promoting coordination.  It should also foster collaboration with regional economic commissions.  At the operational level, existing frameworks for country-level support of the development assistance framework should be strengthened.  In closing, he said review of the implementation of the Ministerial Declaration and the Secretary-General’s recommendations should be carefully assessed.

 

TAMARA KHARASHUN ( Belarus) said that, while the responsibility for eradicating poverty lay with individual countries, the key role in ensuring success in poverty eradication would come from the global partnership for development.  The role of the United Nations in that effort should be stepped up, and her delegation supported the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report.  Trade was an important vehicle for economic growth, but trade liberalization could never be a panacea for fighting poverty.  It must be accompanied by development efforts across many sectors, which were designed through national strategies that reflected genuine conditions in the countries concerned.  Certainly, the Doha Round of negotiations could play an important development role in the international system, but concerns remained about the coercive manner by which trade systems were regulated.

 

Employment was a key way to reduce poverty, she continued.   Belarus supported the work of the United Nations and the International Labour Organization (ILO) in advancing the idea of full and equal employment for all.  Regional commissions held a central role in achieving development goals, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.  She welcomed the work of the Secretary-General’s Task Force aimed at meeting the challenges of the food crisis.  New technologies held promise in generating renewable energy sources that fuelled economies at the same time as they protected the environment.  But, countries that had lower investment resources were prevented from making sufficient progress in that area.  In closing, she reaffirmed her delegation’s proposal to hold a series of thematic debates on renewable energy during the General Assembly’s sixty-third session.

 

RAPHAËL DIEUDONNÉ MABOUNDOU ( Congo), associating himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, noted that progress had been made in the areas of trade, agriculture and rural development.  However, more work was needed in integrating science and technology into United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty.  Such cross-cutting issues should be addressed in a more appropriate manner.  The Organization should ensure that development partners took into account the specific needs of each country, as a better understanding would help developing countries craft coherent and viable development strategies.  He favoured the Secretary-General’s recommendations, which provided a solid foundation for debate on coordinating action for developing countries.  All efforts taken at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development would need investments if they were to succeed.  In that regard, he welcomed the United Nations involvement in such efforts as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) initiative.

 

For its part, Congo had recently endorsed the final strategy document on poverty reduction based on the Millennium Development Goals, adopted a national food security programme and taken measures to deal with soaring commodity prices, he said.  Furthermore, an emergency agro-pastoral programme included exemptions for agricultural imports.  Such essential programmes echoed, at the national level, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Human Development Report.  In closing, he called for increased efforts to improve economic and social conditions for all people.

 

M.K. IBRAHIM (Nigeria), associating himself with the statements made on behalf of the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite some challenges, the United Nations system had had modest success in strengthening global efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger.  Yet, that success was stymied by deficits in the global partnership for development, a persistent lack of coherence and coordination in the United Nations system approach and the multiple crises caused by the international financial turmoil, high food and fuel prices and the devastating effects of climate change.

 

Emphasizing that eradicating poverty and hunger was an enormous task and critical to the larger goal of sustainable development, he highlighted the United Nations Millennium Development Goal Gap Task Force as one way to advance effective and systemic coordination of development policies at the national, regional and global levels.  The Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group had also already struck the right chord by taking up the task of addressing gaps in day-to-day operational collaboration between the United Nations system and international financial institutions.

 

In Nigeria’s experience, increased agricultural production and development of infrastructure were critical to poverty eradication, he continued.  A strategy that afforded attention to both the small-scale farmer and mechanized farms was needed to address the food crisis and herald a green revolution in Africa.  Inclusive international trade, aid for trade, foreign investment in productive sectors, transfer of renewable-energy technologies and equitable disbursement of adaptation funds would greatly enhance sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

 

SUSAN JOHNSON, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), focused on the importance of partnering at the national level with community-based organizations, an area in the Secretary-General’s report she found lacking.  Noting that the theme -– the importance of partnering to meet today’s humanitarian challenges — had been developed at the thirtieth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent last year, she said that that meeting had ended with the “Together for Humanity” declaration, a phrase that captured the true spirit of the current Council session.

 

In the Secretary-General’s report, climate change was addressed as an issue to be handled through analyses and reports, among other things, and she had hoped for a more forthright approach to the issue of adaptation in developing countries.  It did not give prominence to capacity-building needs at the community level, which was at the heart of her delegation’s work.  On public health, she said ample examples existed of the ability of diseases to strike across political boundaries, as did examples of IFRC partnering with Governments to deal with such threats.  IFRC worked in close partnership with relevant organizations, especially the World Health Organization.  In closing, she said Millennium Goal 8 was about the global partnership for development, which IFRC had consistently supported.  Her organization would continue to strengthen its engagement at community, national and international levels.

 

Round Table Discussion

 

The afternoon round table discussion on “The role of the Economic and Social Council in addressing violence against women in all its forms and manifestations: A dialogue with the chairpersons of the functional commissions” was chaired by Council Vice-President Lima of Cape Verde.

 

The discussion was moderated by Council Vice-President and Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, Olivier Belle ( Belgium).  It featured the participation of Lorena Giménez ( Venezuela), Vice-Chairperson of the Commission for Social Development; Pali Lehohla ( South Africa), Chairperson of the Statistical Commission; and Elena Zuñiga ( Mexico), Chairperson of the Commission on Population and Development.

 

Opening the discussion, Mr. LIMA stressed that violence against women was a dehumanizing phenomenon.  It not only hampered efforts to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, but increased poverty and hunger.

 

Taking the floor as moderator, Mr. BELLE said the political will to tackle the very difficult, but important, issue was missing, despite the fact that violence against women remained a scourge throughout the world and in every society.

 

Ms. GIMÉNEZ said the Commission on Social Development had addressed the topic of violence against women as part of its consideration of the promotion of full and decent employment for all.  She highlighted a presentation given by an expert from the International Labour Organization (ILO), which had described how workplace discrimination against women limited the range of employment opportunities available to women.  It reduced their income and increased labour market inequity.  Gender-based work discrimination also lowered productivity among women in the workplace.

 

While labour policies that were gender-sensitive could address violence against women, they had to do so by targeting the larger phenomenon of societal violence that existed beyond the workplace, she said.  Over the past decade, some positive developments had occurred to improve women’s work status: the education gap had been reduced, more women than men were enrolled in universities and, although they remained a minority at the executive level, more women were working.

 

But, despite the progress, a number of challenges remained, she continued.  For example, women sometimes worked without pay.  Due to the fact that they often took care of children and ran households in addition to working outside the home, women carried a heavier overall workload than men.  Women also continued to earn less than men, even for work of equal value.  They also faced obstacles to promotion, salary differences and sexual harassment.  All of those forms of discrimination were interlinked and reinforced each other.

 

The persistence of gender inequality posed a number of problems, and strategies aimed at reducing them were required if women were to achieve parity, she said.  To do that, it would be necessary to identify and monitor trends in the marketplace.  To be effective and consistent, public policies had to address all forms of discrimination at the same time.  Their configuration could, of course, vary from country to country.

 

Speaking via video-conference, Ms. ZUÑIGA said the Cairo meeting on population and development had named women’s empowerment as a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.  In 2007, her Bureau had invited Member States to include in their national reports Government strategies to combat violence against women.  At that time, an expert from the Division on the Advancement of Women had also said that manifestations of violence in the family were the result of such practices as forced marriage, ill treatment of widows and female genital mutilation.  Sexual violence outside the couple was also common, and carried out by someone known by the woman.  Older women, a growing segment of the population, were also vulnerable to financial exploitation and abandonment, particularly by those in charge of their welfare.

 

Regarding violence against women, she said States had the duty to prosecute all such cases.  Though most countries had made progress in amending their legal frameworks, more work remained, notably in achieving de facto equality between men and women.  There was consensus that the State’s duty was not merely to respond to acts of violence; it must identify the causes of acts, for which data was needed.  In 2007, various States had discussed what they were doing to reduce violence against women, and several donor countries had said they had included programmes for institutional reform to establish equal opportunity.  The fortieth session of the Commission on Population and Development had highlighted the importance of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies.  The necessary complement was eliminating all forms of violence against women.

 

Taking the floor next, Mr. LEHOHLA gave background on the Statistical Commission’s work, saying that, in compliance with a General Assembly request, the Commission had approved in February the formation of the Friends of the Chair Group, which would develop a set of possible indicators on violence against women.  In that Group were Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Ghana, Italy, Thailand and various observers, including the World Health Organization.   Mexico had taken the lead in chairing the Group.

 

He said the terms of reference called for the Friends to base their deliberations on the proceedings of the 2007 Expert Group Meeting on Indicators to Measure Violence against Women, held in Geneva, Switzerland.  The Friends would subject the proposed indicators to rigorous technical evaluation, taking into account national experiences in collecting, processing and disseminating such information.  They would also suggest ways of improving the compilation of the various indicators, such as by proposing more rigorous definitions or concepts.  The Friends were currently engaged in on-line exchanges of opinions with respect to such issues as the type of information required, definitions of the types of violence, reference periods, population, appropriate collection methods and whether the proposed indicators were comprehensive or insufficient.  Going forward, the Group would develop suggestions to identify and close gaps, extend options and count on sufficient elements that might justify the relevance and consistency of the proposed set of indicators.

 

Mr. BELLE, speaking as Chairman of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that, as part of the Commission’s efforts to address the global problems facing women, it had partnered with the Commission on Crime and Justice to try to strengthen the ability of women to access justice systems.  He had recently attended a meeting of the Commission on Crime and Justice, in which a day had been devoted to discussing violence against women.  One of its key conclusions had been that an integrated response to such violence required close cooperation between law enforcement personnel, victim advocates and legal representatives, among others.

 

In other work, he said, the Commission on the Status of Women had established a link between its work to eliminate violence against women and work being done on behalf of the girl child.  It was also aiding specific communities of women who faced particular challenges, including women who were under threat because they had HIV/AIDS and girls who were forced into marriage.

 

During its last meeting, the Commission on the Status of Women had worked with the Statistical Commission to determine how better indicators and statistics on violence against women could be developed.  In the next year, it would take up that issue again.  He noted that, when the Secretary-General had launched of the Campaign to End Violence against Women, he had stressed the unfortunate universality of the problems facing women.  That fact should be at the forefront of every effort in that area.

 

Responding to several questions from the floor about the role of the functional commissions and the Council, Ms. ZUÑIGA said that the round table was a good indicator of progress they could make on the issue.  While the Commission on the Status of Women was the obvious vehicle to deal with the issue, the work of many others clearly intersected with it.  For example, the Commission on Population and Development was relevant to making progress on reproductive rights.  But, the situation of women was tied to such issues as the redistribution of land and efforts to plan for urban development.  It was important to consider how urban spaces promoted or prevented violence.  In sum, she emphasized that the Commission on Population and Development had a great deal to contribute.

 

Addressing the statement made by Belarus that laws prohibiting violence against women had been drafted in her country, Ms. GIMÉNEZ said that legislation was important, but there was a further need to emphasize empowerment.  Women who knew their rights were more likely to use the legal system.  In addition, the problem of impunity consistently came up and had to be addressed as a cross-cutting issue.

 

In response to a number of questions about the role better statistical information-gathering could play, Mr. LEHOHLA cautioned that it was very challenging to gather statistics on that type of violence.  In the practice of statistical studies, there was a notion of intentional omissions or legalized errors, which was a limiting factor in statistical work and certainly applied to the issue.  As a result, it should be kept in mind that it was not simply a statistical exercise.  A great deal of dialogue would be necessary to even begin to outline the size and extent of the phenomenon.

 

In addition, he noted that conflict was also part of the dialogue –- conflict at the domestic level and at the level of nations, and violence against women had to be considered on all levels.  The notion of power-sharing had to be extended beyond countries to individuals.  Statistics could make that issue of power-sharing more transparent, but it had to work at the societal level and on the level of language.

 

Taking up questions about the role of the Council in eliminating violence against women, Mr. BELLE stressed that the Council could bring attention to the issue, and was, in fact, already doing so in today’s round table.  Yet, it was possible that other initiatives could be suggested through political leadership in the Council.  As one practical step that had been taken to eliminate violence targeting women within the United Nations system, he highlighted the action by the United States when it had held the presidency of the Security Council to focus on violence against women within the context of conflict.  In closing, he stressed that work on the issue needed to move forward on multiple fronts, starting with a focus on prevention.  Mentalities needed to be changed and a focus on empowerment was important.

 

In closing, Mr. LIMA recalled that, despite his father’s verbal violence against his mother, he had never seen his father beat his mother.  He called on everyone in the room to remember that they were children of women and, in so doing, reject violence against women.  Such violence was only the reflection of the weakness and cowardice of men.  It came from traditional practices and institutional practices, although it could be likened to a crime.  It had been allowed to go on for too long.  But, rejecting it should not be a political stand only.  Personal actions were required to break the cycle of violence against women.

 

SOURCE : UNITED NATIONS


Categories

%d bloggers like this: