TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Jul07/04)

13 July 2007


The High-Level Segment of the recently revitalised United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has adopted a Ministerial Declaration after unusually difficult and prolonged negotiations.

The declaration was endorsed by the Council on Tuesday night after a successful last-hour attempt by ECOSOC President Amb. Dalius Cekuolis of Lithuania to reach agreement on some contentious issues, particularly climate change and overseas development assistance.

Below is a report on the ECOSOC opening session published in SUNS #6291 Thursday 12 July 2007.

With best wishes
Martin Khor

ECOSOC Declaration Adopted After Protracted Negotiations

By Riaz K Tayob

The High-Level Segment of the recently revitalised United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has adopted a Ministerial Declaration after unusually difficult and prolonged negotiations.

The declaration was endorsed by the Council on Tuesday night after a successful last-hour attempt by ECOSOC President Amb. Dalius Cekuolis of Lithuania to reach agreement on some contentious issues, particularly climate change and overseas development assistance.

The adoption of the Ministerial Declaration was repeatedly postponed despite intensive negotiations over several days that often went into late at night. It was supposed to have been presented to the Council last Thursday. But wrangling over several issues continued for days after most of the Ministers had left.

There had been significant divergences, mainly on North-South lines, on a few issues, particularly climate change and development aid commitments.

In the negotiations on the climate change paragraph, there had been differences on how the principle of common but differentiated responsibility would be treated, including in relation to additional terms such as “respective capabilities” and “social and economic conditions”, how the role of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) would be mentioned, and the context of sustainable development.

Also, developing countries wanted a commitment from developed countries that the latter would make presentations to the ECOSOC on the status of their implementation of internationally agreed development goals (IADGs) under ECOSOC’s newly established Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) mechanism. In the final text, there is only very mild language inviting all countries to make national presentations.

The final declaration welcomed the strengthening of ECOSOC, the implementation of the AMR and the launch of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF). It welcomed the voluntary national presentations made by Bangladesh, Barbados, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Ethiopia and Ghana under the AMR and invited all countries to consider making voluntary national presentations in future AMRs.

In perhaps the most important part of the Declaration, para 10 deals with sustainable development and climate change.

In this lengthy paragraph, the declaration reaffirmed the commitment to achieve the goal of sustainable development including through the implementation of Agenda 21 (the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro 1992) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

The declaration stated that “These efforts will promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development - economic development, social development and environmental protection - as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars. Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development.

“We recognise the negative impact of environmental degradation and climate change on sustainable development in all countries, especially developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, small island developing countries and African countries.

“We recall the provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) including the acknowledgement that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries in an international response in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and social and economic conditions.

“We reaffirm that responses to climate change should be coordinated to avoid adverse impacts on economic development taking into account the legitimate priority needs of developing countries for sustainable economic growth and eradication of poverty.

“We look forward to measures to address climate change within the UNFCC and to the CRC13 Meeting of the UNFCC and MOP 3 of Kyoto Protocol in Bali in December and the Secretary General’s High Level event in New York on 24 September 2007 in New York”.

[The G77 and China had originally proposed that the declaration incorporated reference to addressing climate change within the UNFCC Framework, but this was not agreed to by many developed countries.]

The declaration calls for promotion and facilitation of, as appropriate, access to and the development, transfer and diffusion of technologies, including new and environmentally-sound technologies and corresponding know-how to developing countries.

It reiterated strong support for fair globalization and the need to translate growth into reduction of poverty and resolved to make the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective in relevant national and international policies including poverty reduction strategies.

States committed themselves to promote sustained economic growth in developing countries and that national efforts should be complemented by an international enabling environment.

The declaration emphasised that increasing access through national and international support to water, sanitation, energy, universal education, health care and social protection will reduce both inequality and poverty.

It reiterated the resolve to strengthen efforts to eradicate the scourges of poverty and hunger and to make it the central priority of national development strategies and international development cooperation.

It reaffirmed commitment to sound policies, promoting international trade as an engine for development, increasing financial and technical cooperation for development, sustainable debt financing and external debt relief and enhancing coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems.

The declaration reaffirms the commitments made in the Doha Declaration, the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and the General Council of the World Trade Organisation of 1 August 2004 and called for the successful and timely completion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations with the full realisation of the development dimensions of the Doha Work Programme.

At the session adopting the Declaration, Amb. Munir Akram of Pakistan, for the G77 and China, said that the adoption by consensus of the Ministerial declaration is a good conclusion to the High-Level Segment of this ECOSOC on the occasion of the first AMR and the launch of the DCF.

“Our negotiators had worked hard and defended their positions with tenacity”, he said. Adoption, he added, has become a tradition at ECOSOC. While there were several issues that the group would have wished to have inserted, others omitted and others expressed differently, Amb. Akram said the text represented a fair compromise in the spirit of negotiations.

Portugal, for the European Union, said that it welcomed the results and the opportunity to engage in dialogue and it would like to see the positive spirit reflected in the President’s summary of the meeting.

Amb Trevor Miller of the US said that these were surprisingly difficult negotiations but that it was pleased to reach consensus in the newly reformed ECOSOC. He said that the US was pleased with some discussions but had hoped for a significantly shorter document.

He said the text included a reference to climate change, and the language used was in previously agreed texts. He said the problems countries had with regard to reaching agreement on the text “should be sobering for future discussions”, adding that the issues are complex and will need to be dealt with, with utmost care.

The Cuban delegation said that it truly regretted that the process was so prolonged and subjected to resistance from developed countries on the same words found in different statements that have already been agreed.

It hoped that these words would become a reality even though the declaration may have been a reiteration of previous language. Most of these issues are still pending matters, said its representative. This ferocious battle of words should be translated into concrete deeds as this has not happened to date.

Cuba also agreed to strengthen the participation of developing countries and economies in transition in international economic decision making and norm setting. It stressed the importance of continuing efforts to reform the international financial architecture and that enhancing the voice of developing countries and economies in transition in the Bretton Woods institutions remains a continuous concern.

The Declaration also reaffirmed that good governance at the international level is fundamental for achieving sustainable development and it is important to promote global economic governance through addressing the international finance, trade, technology and investment patterns that impact on the development prospects of developing countries and that the international community should take all necessary and appropriate measures, including ensuring support for structural and macroeconomic reform, a comprehensive solution to the external debt problem and increased market access for developing countries.

The declaration also calls for increased productive investment in rural and agricultural development to achieve food security.

The declaration also prioritised actions and allocation of resources to eliminate hunger and malnutrition and to increase access of malnourished people to food. It reiterated that countries should promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as called for in the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly.

It emphasised the critical role of formal and informal education for poverty eradication especially for girls and women.

The declaration called on countries to adopt strategies to reduce urban poverty and invited international financial institutions to support those efforts.

The declaration also welcomed the hosting of the Civil Society Development Forum preceding the ECOSOC.

It encouraged all countries to facilitate the expansion of micro-finance to meet the unmet demand among poor people for financial services.

The declaration resolved to intensify efforts toward the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, enhanced access to affordable medicines, reduction of TB prevalence by half by 2015 and a reduction of the large number of deaths from malaria and other infectious diseases including through increased resources.

It reiterated the need to fully implement the global partnership for development to operationalise and implement the outcomes of major UN Conferences and summits including the 2005 World Summit including those systemic in nature.

The declaration says that each country must take primary responsibility for its own development. National efforts should complemented by supportive global programs, measures to expand development opportunities for developing countries while taking into account national conditions and respect for national ownership, strategies and sovereignty.

A critical challenge is to ensure necessary internal conditions for mobilising domestic savings, sustaining levels of productive investment and increasing human capacity. It said that a crucial task is to enhance the efficacy, coherence and consistency of macroeconomic policies and efforts to create such an environment should be supported by the international community.

The declaration noted with concern the overall decline in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2006 and called for the fulfilment of all ODA commitments including developed country commitments to achieve the 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) for ODA by 2015 and at least 0.5% by 2010 and a target of 0.15% to 0.20% for Least Developed Countries.

It welcomed the efforts to enhance the quality of Aid including the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. It undertook to ensure that existing commitments of additional external resources for Sub-Saharan Africa are fully implemented.

It called for the full, timely and effective achievement of the goals and targets set in various agreements to address the special needs of LDCs, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.

It recognised that poverty and inequality are a concern for all countries. Also, middle income countries still face significant areas of poverty and efforts to address these should be supported.

The declaration renewed the commitment to continue to discuss innovative mechanisms for financing for development.

It requested ECOSOC to consider reviewing its existing mechanisms and where needed to take appropriate action to ensure effective review and implementation of the outcomes of major UN conferences and summits.