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TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Sept11/07)
30 September 2011
Third World Network

Informal negotiations on a United Nations ad hoc Panel of Experts reveal deep North and South divide, with a final decision by the General Assembly postponed until end 2011
By Bhumika Muchhala (TWN), New York

The ongoing annual session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York will consider the establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts as an integral part of the follow-up to the United Nations 2009 conference on the world financial and economic crisis.

Informal negotiations last summer that continued into the substantive meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July in Geneva to create such a panel failed to reach a decision, with the member states agreeing to postpone the decision to the end of 2011, when the UN General Assembly will conclude its discussions on global economic governance. 

The informal negotiations acted on the ECOSOC decision taken two years ago in July 2009 on the follow-up to paragraph 56 in the outcome document produced by the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development (24-26 June 2009).  Paragraph 56 requested ECOSOC to carry out five activities, recommendations, and reviews, of which the fifth component is to “consider and make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development.” 

While no consensus decision could be reached, postponing the Panel of Experts discussion preserves the space for a continuing dialogue in the General Assembly. The rationale for the Panel of Experts is that it would offer independent and technical opinions and analysis for policy making, while also facilitating discussion among a wide array of stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the work agenda of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group established to address the follow-up of the 2009 UN Conference that had been meeting in New York in 2010 will be clarified by end November at the annual General Assembly session. According to some developing country delegates, in effect the decision on the Panel of Experts is postponed until the work agenda of the Working Group can be clarified. It remains to be seen how the processes will be resolved.

ECOSOC Resolution on Panel of Experts

The resolution adopted by ECOSOC in its July 2011 substantive session is titled “Follow-up to the Outcome of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development: consideration of the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts.” 

(The ECOSOC resolution in draft form that was the outcome of informal consultations is available at:

http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/2011/L.41&referer=http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/documents/2011.htm&Lang=E)

This resolution, which concluded two months of divided and difficult member state negotiations in June (in New York) and in July (in Geneva), postponed a final decision to be made by the General Assembly at the end of 2011.

The resolution addressed the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts which would be discussed for the purpose of providing “independent technical expertise and analysis which could contribute to informing international action and political decision-making and fostering constructive dialogue and exchanges among policymakers, academics, institutions and civil society.” This is part of the outcome recommendations of the June 2009 UN Conference.

The resolution of July 2011 contains two important developments.  The first is an explicit recognition of the contribution of the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System reforms set up by the 63rd President of the General Assembly in 2009 and chaired by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.  The second step is recognition of the important role of the UN Regional Commissions. 

The resolution also pays special emphasis on the valuable contribution of the UN agencies and its various independent bodies, such as the Stiglitz Commission.  These bodies are noted for informing and providing intellectual support to the intergovernmental work of Member States.

The resolution “Affirms the need to examine the most efficient modalities to provide independent technical expertise and analysis on issues relating to the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development, to be made available to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly, which could contribute to informing international action and political decision-making and to fostering constructive dialogue and exchanges among policymakers, academics, institutions and civil society”.

In that regard, it recommends that “the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development should be further considered by the General Assembly, taking into account the outcomes of the various related processes, including the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly to follow up on the issues contained in the Outcome of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, as well as the forthcoming deliberations in the Assembly (starting in September 2011) on the role of the United Nations in global economic governance and development, and on the modalities of the financing for development follow-up process”.

(Two UN conferences have been held on financing for development with commitments and activities adopted by Member States but implementation has remained elusive.)

Finally, the resolution requests the UN Secretary General to explore options which take into account the need to make full use of existing UN bodies, including the regional commissions, and to report to the General Assembly through existing reporting mechanisms.

Informal negotiations marked by North-South divisions

During the informal negotiations in New York in June, the Group of 77 (G77) and China had clarified on several occasions that an ad hoc Panel of Experts on the development impacts of the crisis should add expertise on a technical level to member state negotiations. 

According to the developing countries’ grouping, the panel’s operations should also be informed by, and interact with, member states.  The G77 and China stressed that the member states should make a recommendation for the establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts to the General Assembly. 

The Group held the view that the discussion on global governance and the role of the UN is separate from the discussion on an ad hoc panel of experts.  The delegate from Venezuela, on behalf of G77 and China for the discussion on the panel of experts, said that while there are common substantive elements between global governance and the creation of an expert panel the two discussions are very different in terms of implications as governance is separate from technical economic matters.

The Group was willing to explore how the Financing for Development process, and in particular the role of regional commissions, could contribute to the experts panel discussion.  It noted that the “resource capacity” expected from a panel of experts is currently being obtained from the “regional commissions.”  For example, “with regard to the global reserve system, there are very few experts on that topic, and the regional commissions are quite useful in this matter.”

The G77 and China highlighted that the “role of outside technical contributors is valued” and that the work of the New York-based UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) has been extremely useful.  It is from the successful experiences in deriving significant value from technical contributors that the Group advocates for the creation of a coherent and regularly functioning Panel of Experts.

The European Union, supported in large part by the United States and Canada, stated that they were “concerned about the proliferation of UN processes and the need to rationalize UN work.”  The EU disagreed with the G77 and China’s differentiation between the discussions on global economic governance and the panel of experts by stating that “the global economic governance process provides a framework” within which independent technical expertise should be situated. 

The EU noted that independent technical expertise was already being solicited, integrated and valued in the existing UN processes, saying that “if one looks at the index, contributions and references of the reports and the level of outside contributions, with reference to the UN DESA report on The Global Social Crises, it is apparent how valuable the role of outside contributors is.” 

In this way, the EU did not agree with the G77 that a panel of experts should be established separately and independently from any UN agencies, in that while cooperation and dialogue between such a panel and the UN system would be supported the panel members themselves would convene and produce materials independently from the UN agencies.

The EU said that it is important to consolidate the full range of expertise from across the UN agencies, and that a recommendation should be made to the General Assembly to look into such an endeavor.  It said that the “operative section (of the panel of experts resolution) should recommend to the Secretary General to include the panel of experts in its final report on the role of the UN in global economic governance.” 

The EU stressed that although independent technical analysis, affirmed by the General Assembly, would contribute to member state discussions and negotiations, it is also important that the various agencies of the UN produce results through consistent cooperation.  

Russia also agreed with the EU, saying that they “support the EU in the sense that the Panel of Experts should be joined to the global governance debate, but that this should not be the primary priority of the negotiations.”  Russia also noted that they support making a request to the UN Secretary General to integrate the establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts to the Secretary General’s report on the UN’s role in global economic governance.

Canada added that if convergence among member states does not exist, it does not make sense for ECOSOC to propose such a panel of experts to the General Assembly President.  Instead, Canada proposed that “some sort of process, particularly an existing process, can be used as a compromise between establishing a Panel of Experts and nothing at all.”  It suggested that the member states should be looking at alternatives, while at the same time affirming the EU’s position by saying that “the EU’s suggestions are worth discussing more closely in order to have a deliverable.” 

Mexico disagreed with Canada’s conclusion of there being no point for ECOSOC to make recommendations to the General Assembly President without a consensus among member states.  Mexico said that its understanding of the “purpose of this discussion was for ECOSOC to provide recommendations to the General Assembly.” Mexico stressed that “it should be clear that ECOSOC should be able to give concrete recommendations to the General Assembly, otherwise what is the point of ECOSOC’s existence?”

[The facilitator of the informal negotiations which led to the adoption of the draft resolution in Geneva was the delegate from Ecuador.  He had proposed a “Facilitator’s Non-Paper” in June which, unlike the draft resolution adopted by ECOSOC, recommended to the General Assembly the establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts.  This option did not gain support.] 

Civil society calls for the panel of experts

On 12 July, 107 representatives of civil society organizations and individuals from around the world issued a joint letter to support the establishment of the ad hoc panel of experts.  The letter requested that governments of the General Assembly endorse the establishment of the panel in the draft resolution that was being finalized in Geneva

The civil society letter stated that an expert panel could produce independent technical analysis and provide recommendations on global financial, economic and system issues in line with the mandates of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development.  It stresses that such a panel of experts would foster constructive exchanges among UN member states as well as among policymakers, academics, institutions and members of civil society.  Recommendations would be made available to the ECOSOC, as well as to the General Assembly. 

Civil society members emphasized their shared concern with developing countries about the impact of the world financial crisis on development and the need for adequate responses so as to avoid its recurrence, restore global economic stability and promote underlying institutional reforms required to ensure sustained global economic development for the benefit for all. 

An urgent need to strengthen and broaden the participation of developing countries in global economic governance is at the center of these concerns on the impacts of the crises on the South, they stressed.  Thus, civil society members asserted that establishing an expert panel within the UN will serve to amplify the views and analyses from a South-focused lens.+ 

 


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