Sumario: July 5, 2005: EU STATEMENT ON THE UN REGIONAL ECONOMIC COMMISSIONS AND ACHIEVEMENT OF THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS by Michael Schultz, Senior Advisor at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations on behalf of the European Union at ECOSOC 2005: DIALOGUE WITH THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARIES OF THE REGIONAL COMMISSIONS (New York)
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey and Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
For the European Union, the Millennium Declaration constitutes the over-arching policy framework for the economic and social work of the United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals, the outcomes of the UN conferences and summits in the economic, social and environmental field, and the plans of action of Johannesburg, Cairo and Beijing provide us with concrete, measurable targets for international development. The Secretary-General's recent report on regional co-operation in the economic, social and related fields (E/2005/15) underlined the need for further measures to strengthen the co-ordination of activities within the UN system at the regional level, in order to provide coherent support for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The European Union endorses this view. We believe that the Regional Commissions can usefully act, within their mandates, as focal points for monitoring progress towards achievement of the MDGs, as well as other internationally agreed development goals and targets.
The Regional Commissions have played an important role in raising awareness of the Millennium Development Goals, and underlining the need for consistent policies to be developed at the country, regional and international levels. The recently circulated regional reports, prepared in co-operation with the UN and other regional partners, usefully bring out the trends particular to each region, analyse the underlying causes influencing sub-regional divergences, identify good practice and provide concrete policy recommendations. The European Union believes that while country-level ownership of the Millennium Development Goals remains key to their successful achievement, the regional level offers a valuable opportunity to exchange national experiences on interrelated policy issues, and a useful framework for peer reviews, also vital to achieving international development targets. Regional monitoring complements national monitoring of the MDGs, and usefully highlights regional trends and comparative approaches.
The European Union believes that the Regional Commissions possess expertise that could be used more effectively to help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The EU therefore welcomes the proposed reforms recommended in the UN Secretary General's report, aimed at improving the effectiveness of the UN Secretariat, ECOSOC and the operations of the Funds, Programmes and Specialised Agencies - including the Regional Commissions. A sharper focus for the activities of the Regional Commissions, complementary to those of other multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, for example in the field of research, is needed. The European Union would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its commitment to support the work of the UN Economic Commission for Europe and to participate actively in its reform.
I should like to take this opportunity to reflect briefly on some of the work undertaken by Regional Commissions in support of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals:
- UN Economic Commission for Europe
The European Union takes note of the recommendations contained in the recent review of UN ECE, and looks forward to discussing these with partners in the coming weeks. With regard to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the EU underlines the importance of avoiding duplicative work between the international and regional organizations taking an active role in the region. In this context, the EU welcomes the valuable partnership between the United Nations Development Programme and UN ECE in providing technical assistance in South-East Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The sixtieth session of UN ECE in February 2005, which reviewed UN ECE's activities in support of achievement of the MDGs, noted that recently some post-transition economy countries have emerged as donors of ODA. And that they are targeting their aid towards achieving the MDGs in countries with economies in transition (South-East Europe and Central Asia) and developing countries. This is a welcome advance.
- UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
The European Union takes note of ECLAC's recent regional review on meeting the Millennium Development Goals, with its helpful focus on key regional issues: social inequality, synergies in public policy intervention, and financing needs. Given the current inequality of income distribution across the Latin American and Caribbean region, the European Union welcomes ECLAC's current focus on the urgent need to develop distributive policies, including through the provision of stronger social support, as part of achieving MDG8.
-UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Although the region has achieved the highest rate of growth in the world, there still remain key development challenges to be addressed: the region has the largest number of absolute poor (two-thirds of the world's poor) and several countries have increasing poverty levels. The recent regional review, and the May ESCAP meeting in Bangkok, provide a valuable region-wide assessment of the progress made and obstacles encountered in meeting the MDGs in Asia and the Pacific. The review usefully examined the best practices that have contributed towards reducing poverty, combating HIV/AIDS, promoting environmental sustainability, and fostering international co-operation, including in the fight against HIV/AIDS and emerging health risks.
- UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
The European Union welcomes regional progress towards achieving a number of MDGs, notably those related to health and progress on education. However, there remains more to be done, to address issues of poverty, education, governance, economic development and women's empowerment. Resolving conflict is also vital if the region is to achieve its full potential. The European Union encourages ESCWA to provide a platform for dialogue and exchange of experiences, in consultation with other UN agencies and programmes, in order to take forward the momentum for modernisation and development in the region.
- UN Economic Commission for Africa
We all remain acutely conscious that the African continent remains furthest from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The European Union is therefore particularly interested in the work of the UN Commission for Africa, which has the potential to make a substantial contribution to development in Africa. The European Union believes that the UN Economic Commission for Africa has made a major contribution to poverty reduction by helping countries peer review their Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs). It is the hope of the European Union that the next generation of PRSs will address structural constraints on poverty reduction through strategies for growth, and linking targets for PRSs and Millennium Development Goals.
We support the ECA Africa Gender Index (supporting MDGs 3, 4and 5), piloted in some 12 African countries, to help policy makers better assess how they are achieving compliance with international norms and legislation in respect of gender parity. And we also support the UN Commission on HIV and Governance in Africa, which will report later in 2005, and whose recommendations will provide valuable support to the achievement of MDG6.
It is worth noting that the recent UN ECA session in Abuja considered the first Mutual Review Report prepared jointly by UN ECA and OECD. Enhancing Africa's potential to meet the MDGs will, of course, require significant co-operation between Africa and its partners, based on trust and a shared responsibility for development effectiveness. The joint report usefully highlighted several key issues for the achievement of MDG8, including benchmarks for measuring progress towards mutually agreed commitments; the challenges of improving aid effectiveness; and promoting policy coherence.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.