Subsidiary Bodies Present Reports on Least Developed Countries, Financing for Development, New Inter-Agency Entity to Coordinate Nutrition Aid
The Economic and Social Council concluded its 2021 Management Segment today, adopting a series of texts forwarded by its subsidiary bodies which covered topics from the rights of indigenous peoples and support for Haiti, to the learning portfolios of venerated United Nations training and training institutions, while also reviewing reports on food security and financing for development.
In a flurry of activity, the 54-member Council adopted a resolution on “United Nations System Staff College in Turin, Italy”, calling the United Nations system to make full use of the services provided by Staff College and encourage the participation of their staff in relevant courses.
Adopting a resolution titled “United Nations Institute for Training and Research”, the Council encouraged the Institute to continue to develop training programming in the fields of diplomacy, international relations, sustainable development, economic cooperation, women’s empowerment and international law, among others.
By another resolution submitted by its Committee on Conferences, the Council approved the provisional calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields for 2022 and 2023.
Council members also adopted several decisions, including one related to the theme and dates for the 2021 session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, and heard the introduction of reports by the Committee on World Food Security, UN Nutrition and other subsidiary and expert bodies.
Responding to an inquiry from 8 June about a vacant D-2 position in the Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, an official from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs said that the recruitment is due to be completed soon.
Also participating today were representatives of Malawi (for the Group of Least Developed Countries), Canada, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Guatemala and Switzerland.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 July, to conclude its 2021 Integration Segment.
Food Security and Nutrition
THANAWAT TIENSIN (Thailand), Chair of the Committee on World Food Security, speaking via video-conference, introduced the report on the main decisions, outcomes and policy recommendations taken by the Committee during its forty‑seventh session in February (document E/2021/51). He said the global pandemic continues to profoundly affect food systems and threaten the progressive realization of the right to food, with “extremely serious” consequences for food security and nutrition. Over the past 18 months, the Committee has served as the United Nations’ unique, multi-stakeholder platform for inclusive engagement on Sustainable Development Goal 2 on zero hunger. The Committee has developed several policy products to directly address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, including the voluntary guidelines on food systems and nutrition, and a report entitled “Food security and nutrition: building a global narrative towards 2030”.
NAOKO YAMAMOTO, Chair of UN Nutrition and Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage and Healthier Populations of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking via videoconference, presented the report of UN Nutrition (document E/2021/53), an inter-agency entity created in 2020 through the merger between the former United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition and the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition. The new entity works to enhance systemwide coordination for nutrition. It developed a comprehensive online resource list and a “one stop shop” for the Organization’s technical guidance on COVID-19-related nutrition actions and adaptations. It also published an advocacy brief to maintain attention on nutrition during the pandemic and supported the integration of nutrition into national COVID-19 response plans.
Decade for Least Developed Countries
FEKITAMOELOA KATOA ‘UTOIKAMANU, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020 (document E/2021/13), which outlines progress made in implementing the Programme over its full 10-year period, covering all eight priority action areas and the overarching goal of graduation from the category of least developed countries. The report is a key input for the preparatory process leading to the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held from 23 to 27 January 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Noting that Maldives, Samoa, Equatorial Guinea and Vanuatu have graduated since 2010, she said Angola, Bhutan, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Solomon Islands are scheduled to graduate. On 8 June, the Economic and Social Council endorsed the Committee for Development Policy’s recommendation that Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal graduate within five years. However, the Programme’s target of graduating half of the least developed countries was not met and the gains made are likely to be reversed due to the impact of COVID-19, she pointed out, calling for redoubled efforts.
The representative of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Least Developed Countries Group, said that these States have reduced poverty, improved access to information and communications technology and energy, and increased enrolment in primary education. Overall, however, they struggle to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, amid various challenges which slow their structural transformation. Their participation in world trade remains marginal, and their hard-won gains are being reversed, with negative economic growth registered in nearly all least developed countries in 2020. The upcoming fifth United Nations Conference offers an opportunity to chart the course for their recovery from the pandemic. The priorities include efforts to tackle extreme poverty and the acute financing gaps, and to leverage science, technology and innovation, particularly while harnessing the energy of young people. It will also be important to address risks related to climate change while exploring action to strengthen partnerships.
The representative of Canada said his delegation serves as co-Chair of the Preparatory Committee for the fifth United Nations Conference along with Bangladesh, stressing that recovery from the pandemic is a top focus. Highlighting the need to complete the unfinished business of the Istanbul Programme of Action, he said the United Nations must also explore how to support least developed countries through incentives and indicators to ensure that graduation is not a punishment.
The representative of Australia said implementation of the Programme of Action must be led by least developed countries themselves. “Graduation should not be a punishment,” he asserted.
Financing for Development
The Economic and Social Council then considered the report of its forum on financing for development follow-up (document E/FFDF/2021/3), with a summary by the forum’s President — including the special high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) — to be issued as document E/2021/68.
Acting on the forum’s recommendation, the Council then decided to transmit the body’s intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations to the high‑level political forum on sustainable development, which will be held in July.
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
ANNE NUORGAM (Finland), Chair of the twentieth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, speaking via videoconference, introduced the organ’s report (document E/2021/43), covering its 19 to 30 April session — its first in two years. Noting that most consultations were conducted virtually, she said that, although the session drew participants from across the world, the active engagement of indigenous peoples was limited due to technical barriers. “Digital divide is very real for them,” she said. In-person dialogue is essential for the Forum to implement its mandate. The report contains several new recommendations and highlights the importance of country-level action, including legal reforms and allocation of adequate resources. The Forum is committed to facilitating regional dialogues and has contributed to the development of guiding principles on indigenous peoples’ autonomy and self-governance.
The Council then adopted draft decisions in the report on “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent”; “Venue and dates of the twenty-first session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”; and the “Report of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on its twentieth session and provisional agenda for its twenty-first session”.
Calendar of Conferences
The Council then turned to the provisional calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields for 2022 and 2023 (document E/2021/50) and the 28 April letter from the Chair of the Committee on Conferences to the President of the Economic and Social Council (document E/2021/59).
The Council then adopted draft resolution E/2021/L.21, titled “Provisional calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields for 2022 and 2023”.
Support for Haiti
The Council next adopted draft decision E/2021/L.16 on the appointment of an additional member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti on the basis of a 19 April letter from the Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the President of the Economic and Social Council (document E/2021/66).
No advance documentation was submitted under this item.
JAMIL AHMAD, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) New York Office, speaking via videoconference, introduced the report of the United Nations Environment Assembly on its fifth session (document A/76/25), detailing the Assembly’s hybrid working methods under the exceptional circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Among many other speakers, 151 Member States participated in an online session that took place in Nairobi from 22 to 23 February. One of the main outcomes of this session was UNEP’s “medium-term strategy for 2022-2025”, which recognizes the existence of three planetary crises — climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution — and lays out strategic objectives that UNEP will pursue to address them. At its fifth session, the Assembly also identified several priority areas relevant to the agendas of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly, including: supporting a sustainable, inclusive recovery from COVID-19; enhancing efforts to implement the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; and making progress in all multilateral forums for the environment.
The Council took note of the report.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
RUVEN MENIKDIWELA, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), speaking via videoconference, presented the oral report of the High Commissioner, pointing out that over 11.2 million people were newly displaced in 2020 because of persecution, conflict, generalized violence and the impact of climate change. She highlighted the new decentralized design that UNHCR adopted to respond in a more flexible, efficient and innovative manner to the COVID-19 pandemic; most importantly, funded partnerships were strengthened and diversified to include more local organizations and first responders. Further, cooperation with the World Bank Group continued, and by mid‑2020, $1.85 billion under the Bank’s International Development Association regional sub‑window for refugees and host communities had been allocated to 14 eligible countries in Africa and Asia, with 35 projects approved.
“The cornerstone of our partnership efforts is evident in inter-agency responses,” she added. In 2020, seven refugee response plans covered the inter‑agency response in 37 countries hosting refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. These plans mobilized some 600 partners who collectively appealed for $11 billion to provide assistance and protection to nearly 13 million refugees and support 13 million people from host communities. She also highlighted UNHCR’s work on climate change and its partnerships on sports, including work with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees to provide support to refugee athletes.
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO (Brazil), Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, speaking via videoconference, introduced the report of the Committee on its sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth sessions (document E/2021/22). While acknowledging the constraints that the COVID-19 pandemic placed on the Committee’s work, he said the body did “everything in its power” to discharge its mandate and guarantee that human rights are “placed at the heart” of both immediate and long-term responses to this crisis. However, the reporting procedure was greatly affected, and the Committee was not able to discharge its core oversight mandate to the extent necessary, only examining 5 reports of States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Despite the commencement of online report examination in 2021, the Committee continues to face severe obstacles linked to the pandemic, and he expressed hope that it can meet in person, in one place and in one time zone to continue its work “in a time of such acute need”. He also noted that treaty bodies continue to suffer from a resource shortfall, urging the Council to provide the Committee with resources adequate to discharge its mandate.
The Council took note of the report.
Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
The Council had no advance documentation submitted under this item.
The representative of South Africa expressed concern over increased racism and xenophobia around the world, adopted by political parties in certain nations and aided by the misuse of modern communications technology. Noting that 2021 marks the twenty-first anniversary of the Durban Declaration — the most comprehensive programme for combating racism, xenophobia and related intolerance — he proposed that the Council provide an analysis of structural forms of racism, along with practical recommendations to address this issue at the international and national levels.
United Nations Research and Training Institutes
JAFAR JAVAN, Director of the United Nations System Staff College, speaking via videoconference, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Staff College (document E/2021/12), which showcases the institution’s accomplishments over the past two years in the field of inter-agency learning. Detailing these efforts, he said the COVID-19 pandemic “has been the greatest challenge that the College has faced since its inception”. In response, the College became a fully online provider of learning in early 2020 for the first time in its history. Online learning increased the number of participants by over 241 per cent, a record high. He expressed the College’s commitment to aligning its academic offerings with key priorities of the United Nations global agenda, focusing its learning support over the last biennium around economic and social development; peace and security; and internal management of the United Nations system. He added that, during the reporting period, the College became the Secretariat’s preferred partner for the delivery of essential management training.
NIKHIL SETH, Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), speaking via videoconference, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the Institute (document E/2021/49). Under its 2018‑2021 strategic framework, UNITAR’s programming is organized under the peace, people, planet and prosperity pillars of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He said that, despite constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITAR was able to maintain business continuity by converting a large number of planned in-person activities to an online format, delivering nearly 80 per cent of its 2020 events online and recording its largest outreach ever. He also detailed the Institute’s work under the four pillars and said it additionally works in three cross-cutting areas: accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; optimizing geospatial technologies; and engaging in multilateral diplomacy. UNITAR, which is 100 per cent voluntary funded, remains in sound financial health, he noted.
CHRISTINA MCELWAINE, Chief Operations Officer of the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, introduced the University Council’s report on the Centre’s work (document E/2021/7), highlighting the ways the Centre connects diverse groups of international stakeholders to generate and share research with the public through raising awareness, communication and training. She detailed several important developments that took place in 2020, including the Centre’s policy research on the estimated impact of COVID-19 on the distribution and severity of poverty; the Security Council’s role in transitional justice; and national cybersecurity strategies in the Asia-Pacific region. Other Centre projects provided immediate practical benefits for vulnerable or marginalized populations and helped strengthen academic and research capacities in the global South. While the Centre “does not often make headlines”, she added, “it has been consistently active behind the scenes”.
The representative of Italy introduced the draft resolution titled “United Nations System Staff College in Turin, Italy” (document E/2021/L.19), stressing that learning is an indispensable tool for improving the quality and efficiency of United Nations work. He commended UNITAR for its efforts towards this end, and called on Member States to continue supporting the Institute both operationally and financially. For its part, Italy is proud to host the College in Turin, which is an established centre of knowledge, management, learning and training.
The Council then adopted the draft resolution.
The representative of Guatemala introduced the draft resolution titled “United Nations Institute for Training and Research”, to be issued as document E/2021/L.22, pointing out that UNITAR — since its inception in 1963 — has trained diplomats around the world to succeed in the United Nations diplomatic arena. UNITAR’s efforts to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis must be recognized, as it was able to continue its provision of innovative support to Member States throughout the pandemic. He also highlighted UNITAR’s work in middle-income countries and its work on health and nutrition.
The Council then adopted the draft resolution and took note of the report of the Council of the United Nations University.
Forum on Forests
MARION BARTHÉLEMY, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, next took the floor to respond to questions raised on 8 June regarding a Director position for the United Nations Forum on Forests. She said that recruitment is now under way, and as is the case with most vacant positions, can now advance due to the Organization’s improved liquidity situation. The Secretary-General’s proposed programme plan and budget for 2022 is also being considered and will be reviewed by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
The representative of Canada thanked the Director for the update, urging the Secretariat to prioritize filling the D-2 position so the Forum on Forests can continue its important work.
The representative of Australia concurred, noting that this issue has been on the Council’s agenda for some time. She stressed the need to focus on implementing the work programme mandated by Member States, including timely recruitment for the D-2 position.
The representative of Switzerland echoed previous remarks and said his country will continue to follow this matter closely.