Focus on Communities in Haiti, Africa, People Living with HIV
The Economic and Social Council today adopted a series of texts, forwarded by its subsidiary bodies, aimed at streamlining support to those facing development challenges around the globe — including populations where HIV rates remain high, communities facing political uncertainty in Haiti and countries emerging from conflict across Africa.
Concluding its 2019 management segment, the 54‑member Council adopted a resolution by whose terms it extended the mandate of the United Nations Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti until 2020, tasking it with providing advice on long-term development and supporting socioeconomic recovery, reconstruction and stability. Introducing that draft, the Chair of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group said that, while the Haitian people are taking important steps to ensure the country’s future development, the situation remains fragile. Noting that 2.6 million Haitians — one quarter of the population — are food insecure, she called for renewed support and redoubled efforts to unlock Haiti’s immense economic potential.
Briefing the Council on Haiti’s shifting political landscape, Mamadou Diallo, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country, said that, after protracted negotiations, the President of Haiti selected a Prime Minister in recent days. Strides have also been seen in combating Haiti’s cholera epidemic and one of its most notorious gang leaders was arrested and will now face trial. Welcoming those developments, he nevertheless warned that the situation remains bleak, with Haiti’s humanitarian and development needs chronically underfunded. More international investment is needed in Haiti, especially to combat the country’s high rates of food insecurity, he said.
The Council also adopted a draft decision titled “African countries emerging from conflict”, by whose terms it requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on that topic in 2020. Under that agenda item, members heard a briefing by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, who shared lessons from that body’s engagement across Africa. Among other things, he spotlighted support to Sierra Leone and Liberia in achieving the priorities enshrined in their national development plans; joint projects with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Development Bank and other partners; assistance to Burundi in facilitating refugee return; and support to partners working to achieve security and development priorities in the Sahel region.
The Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Sudan, describing an overall positive trend, nevertheless warned that challenges exist. South Sudan’s humanitarian situation remains dire, with newly updated figures showing that 7.2 million people are in need of humanitarian support. Going forward, he said, effective management and increased transparency of oil and other resources remains an important priority. The decrease in conflict has also allowed the Government to shift its expenditures to other priorities, rather than security, including preparations for the potential spread of the Ebola virus from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Council also adopted a draft resolution underlining the need for continued, unified support for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Introducing a related report of the Secretary-General, the ad interim Executive Director of the Joint Programme pointed out that, despite a 25 per cent drop in infections among young women since 2010, almost 38 million people around the world are living with HIV, and every week 6,000 adolescent girls and young women become newly infected. Meanwhile, she said, the global resources available for the AIDS response has declined by nearly $1 billion annually. Stressing that “AIDS is not over”, she warned that funding to address unmet needs remains challenging.
In other business, the Council elected, by acclamation, several members to serve on its subsidiary bodies, including the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and the Committee for the United Nations Population Award.
In addition, it adopted a draft decision titled “Venue and dates of and provisional agenda for the nineteenth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters” and a draft resolution titled “Change of name of the Committee on Housing and Land Management”, while taking note of a decision contained in a report of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) titled “Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings”. Considering a draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes at the global level” — also contained in a report of the Economic Commission for Europe — the Council decided to take note of the Commission’s decision on that matter.
The Council decided to defer its consideration of draft resolutions on the following items: revised terms of reference of the Committee on Environmental Policy; revised terms of reference of the Steering Committee on Trade Capacity and Standards; change of name and revised terms of reference of the Working Group on Ageing; and revised terms of reference of the Inland Transport Committee.
Elections, Nominations, Confirmations and Appointments
The Council elected, by acclamation, several members to serve on the boards of its subsidiary bodies. It elected Argentina to the Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to serve a three-year term, beginning 1 January 2020 and expiring on 31 December 2022. It then elected Sven-Erik Soosaar (Estonia) to fill the remaining three-year term on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, beginning on 1 January 2020 and expiring on 31 December 2022; and elected Trinidad and Tobago to serve as member of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award for a term beginning immediately and expiring on 31 December 2021.
Long-Term Programme Support for Haiti
LOUISE BLAIS (Canada), Chair of the Economic and Social Council Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, introduced the draft resolution “Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti” (document E/2019/L.23) and its report (document E/2019/80). While the Haitian people are making important efforts to ensure the country’s future development and well-being, the situation remains fragile, with political, economic, social and humanitarian challenges having a profound effect on its security and stability. The Advisory Group’s recommendations include encouraging the Government of Haiti to expedite implementation of its national development plans in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and that the international community extend more stable and predictable funding. The Group also encouraged the United Nations system to improve its coordination and consultation with the Government and to “act as one”, which will be necessary considering the upcoming transition from the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH).
Highlighting other elements of the Advisory Group’s work, he said its visit to Haiti included seeing several humanitarian projects established by the United Nations and partners to combat food insecurity and respond to basic needs. Indeed, 2.6 million Haitians — one quarter of the population — are food insecure. Their dire circumstances are compounded by the difficult economic situation, he said, stressing that more must be done to assist the population. The Advisory Group also observed Haitian society’s lack of confidence in the Government, which appears to urgently require an inclusive national dialogue. Without this, it seems clear that progress on the political, social and economic fronts will not be possible. Sustainable economic development remains vital to ensure Haiti’s future prosperity and stability. Greater efforts are needed to unlock and maximize the country’s immense economic potential and to address the Advisory Group’s findings that exclusion and economic inequalities are the root causes of Haiti’s current political deadlock and deteriorating security situation.
MAMADOU DIALLO, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti, said that, after protracted negotiations, the President of Haiti selected a Prime Minister in recent days. “We living and working in Haiti can only breathe a sigh of relief,” he said, pointing out that United Nations staff has had no Government with which to do business and development projects were put on hold. Outlining positive news and good strides in combating Haiti’s cholera epidemic, he expressed hope that the disease will be fully eradicated in the coming months. Also in recent days, one of the most notorious gang leaders in Haiti was arrested and will now face trial. Welcoming that development, he said gang violence had long remained unchecked and the recently strengthened national police can serve to provide new hope to the population.
Despite such progress, he warned that the situation remains bleak, with Haiti’s humanitarian and development needs chronically underfunded. Pointing out that the humanitarian appeal for the country is currently funded at only 16 per cent, he called for more international investment in Haiti — particularly to combat the country’s high rates of food insecurity. “We all need to talk to Haiti’s donors and friends,” he told Council members, urging them to ensure that donors provide the funds needed to help Haiti provide for its people. No political agreement in Haiti will hold until there is a structure in place that “brings everyone along”, he stressed.
The representative of Colombia underscored the important role taken on by those working with key actors to advance progress. By sponsoring “L.23”, Colombia reaffirms a permanent historic attitude that efforts in Haiti can lead to a lasting solution. As Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, he expressed its full support to consolidate recent achievements.
The representative of Brazil voiced support for his counterpart from Canada for organizing the visit to Haiti and for the Advisory Group’s report and efforts.
The representative of Haiti said 2019 is a pivotal year for the Advisory Group to support long-term development efforts in his country. Underscoring that Haiti is at a critical juncture for sustainable development, he said the country must address a range of challenges. Indeed, the Advisory Group has correctly identified the causes of the current political deadlock. The security emergency requires the increase of resources and security forces to combat the spread of gang activities. Urgent challenges include currency depreciation, underemployment, food insecurity and a lack of basic services and of access to adequate and predictable financing.
Noting that the Advisory Group also recognized the response of authorities and civil society organizations to the national emergencies in the wake of natural disasters, he commended all members for their efforts and highlighted some of their work, including its recommendations, the quality of discussions with main Haitian institutions, and the inspiring tone of the letter sent by the Chair to the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General. He urged the Advisory Group to establish a road map for the year ahead, which could be based on, among other things, the President’s wish to hold a high-level meeting on the margins of the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session.
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that his delegation constructively participated in negotiations on “L.23”, said the Advisory Group’s mandate should be based on provisions of the draft resolution.
The Council then adopted “L.23”, as orally revised.
African Countries Emerging from Conflict
GUILLERMO FERNANDEZ DE SOTO (Colombia), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, sharing lessons from the Commission’s engagement in Africa, recalled that, in Liberia and Sierra Leone, it has supported joint approaches across the United Nations system and other partners to support national development plans and integrate peacebuilding priorities. Underlining that all that work is undertaken in full compliance with the principle of national ownership, he outlined joint efforts with regional and subregional organizations, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as financial institutions, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In Burundi, the Commission has worked to promote socioeconomic dialogue involving several development partners, focusing on such challenges as returnees and combating malnutrition.
Meanwhile, he said, in the Gambia, the Commission’s work has allowed the Government to share progress on its peacebuilding priorities and facilitated a frank exchange between partners and donors. The Commission provided advice to the Security Council in 2018 on the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and is helping the country implement its National Peacebuilding and Recovery Plan. Noting that Guinea-Bissau is an example where the Commission played a key role in complementing subregional efforts in support of a national political dialogue, he added that in the Sahel region it assisted the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) to mobilize the entire United Nations system. “It is precisely the dynamic role of the [Peacebuilding Commission] that supports efforts to harmonize strategies that ensure the Sahel region overcomes its enormous challenges,” he stressed.
KAMIL KAMALUDDEEN, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), briefing via video link from Juba, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan (document E/2018/70) on behalf of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country. Describing renewed optimism over South Sudan’s 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict, he said the main institutions for the implementation of the peace pact are now in place. While the direction remains positive, significant challenge exist, including the fact that some rebels have not signed onto the Revitalized Agreement. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains dire, with 5.7 million people targeted by the country’s humanitarian response plan for 2019. Figures updated in July show that 7.2 million people are now in need, 1.9 million are internally displaced and nearly 7 million are severely food insecure.
Going forward, he said, effective management and increased transparency of oil and other resources remains an important priority. With the continued peace, fiscal space is expected to expand, and markets are expected to be favourable to oil. The decrease in conflict has also allowed the Government to shift its expenditures to other priorities, rather than security. Noting that it is monitoring and preparing for the potential spread of the Ebola virus from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo — where the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a global public health emergency — he said that, while funding is still overwhelmingly focused on humanitarian support, some development partners are beginning to invest in enabling South Sudan’s economy to recover. Among other things, he said, the United Nations is leading a Partnership for Resilience and Recovery programme, bringing together local and international non-governmental organizations and other partners to help communities cope with the multiple shocks they face.
The Council then approved, without a vote, a draft decision titled “African countries emerging from conflict” (document E/2019/L.28).
International Cooperation in Tax Matters
Resuming its consideration of the report of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters on its eighteenth session (document E/2019/45/Add.1), containing the draft decision “Venue and dates of and provisional agenda for the nineteenth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters”, the Council adopted the draft decision without a vote.
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
GUNILLA CARLSSON, Ad Interim Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), introduced that body’s report (document E/2019/74), noting that its contents are based on 2017 data. However, last week, UNAIDS released its 2018 data, which indicate that almost 38 million people globally are living with HIV and 23 million of those — a record‑high number – are receiving treatment. New infections among young women have dropped by 25 per cent since 2010. However, every week more than 6,000 adolescent girls and young women become infected with HIV. Meanwhile, the global resources available for the AIDS response has declined by nearly $1 billion annually, widening the resource gap to $7 billion annually. For its part, UNAIDS itself is in a period of transition, she said, noting that the Secretary-General is expected to appoint a new Executive Director shortly. That individual will take the lead in setting the direction for the next phase of the global AIDS response. Noting that the Joint Programme continues to play a pivotal role, she stressed that “AIDS is not over”, and warned that funding to address unmet needs remains challenging.
The representative of China, in his capacity as Chair of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, introduced the draft resolution “Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS” (document E/2019/L.24). Noting that all parties had constructive discussions to reach consensus, he said Member States should remain united towards the future and support “L.24”.
The representative of the United States, speaking in his capacity as Vice‑Chair of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, said the draft resolution highlights a need for universal health care and improved services. It also calls for a fully funded response. The next years are the most crucial to reach globally agreed targets, particularly to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 — ensuring healthy lives.
The representative of France, citing remarkable progress, said challenges remain and must be addressed in order to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of Canada said renewed efforts will be needed to address current challenges. However, initiatives must be accompanied by respect for human rights and the active participation of women and girls, among other things, to achieve the goals of zero new infections and zero discrimination.
The representative of the United Kingdom said UNAIDS must lead the response to realize the 2030 Agenda targets. UNAIDS has a critical role to play in prevention and in protecting and promoting human rights, particularly reproductive rights. If the action plan is fully implemented, it could address discrimination‑related concerns. A fully funded accountable budget is also required, alongside efforts to support domestic financing initiatives.
The representatives of the Netherlands, citing recent gains, remained concerned about the most vulnerable and marginalized people being left behind. A public health approach must replace existing laws in more than 60 countries that criminalize sexuality. Efforts must also aim at removing the stigma of AIDS.
The representative of the Russian Federation described national efforts, including testing and services, that have resulted in an increase in those served and a decrease in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Noting his country’s assistance to UNAIDS, he supported a broad exchange of experiences. Pointing to elements of the draft resolution, he said Member States have different views on issues including comprehensive sex education in schools, as well as national legislation on prostitution and the sale of narcotics.
The Council then adopted “L.24” without a vote.
Resuming its consideration of regional cooperation, the Council turned to the addendum titled “Matters calling for action by the Economic and Social Council or brought to its attention: Economic Commission for Europe and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific” (document E/2019/15/Add.2) to the report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields.
The Council decided to defer the following draft resolutions contained therein to its 2020 session: revised terms of reference of the Committee on Environmental Policy; revised terms of reference of the Steering Committee on Trade Capacity and Standards; change of name and revised terms of reference of the Working Group on Ageing; and revised terms of reference of the Inland Transport Committee.
The Council then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Change of name of the Committee on Housing and Land Management”, contained in the addendum.
The Council turned to a draft resolution contained in the addendum — “Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings” — deciding to take note of “decision H (68)” of 10 April of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).
Considering the draft resolution “Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes at the global level”, contained in the addendum, the Council decided to take note of the ECE “decision K (68)” of 10 April.
The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to the draft resolution “Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes at the global level”, expressing hope that the Secretariat’s staff and resources will be strengthened.
The representative of Turkey said her country is not a party to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, which does not represent all States. The Economic and Social Council should not be used to rubber stamp regional matters and should not have taken any formal action on a decision of ECE.
The representative of the United States expressed concerned that the global scale of the draft resolution “Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes at the global level” might overextend existing resources.