Beginning its 2021 Management Segment today, the Economic and Social Council adopted eight resolutions and eight decisions while considering several reports on various topics, many of which were sensitive to COVID-19’s unprecedented impact on the United Nations work around the world.
Four such proposals centred on social development, and the Council heard that the Secretary-General’s report on the International Year of the Family estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely push an additional 88 to 115 million people into extreme poverty and an additional 150 million children into multidimensional poverty. On this topic, the Council adopted three resolutions contained in the Commission for Social Development’s report on its fifty-ninth session, titled respectively “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission for Social Development”, “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” and “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.” It also adopted the decision titled “Report of the Commission for Social Development on its fifty-ninth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the sixtieth session” and confirmed several nominations to the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.
The pandemic also exacerbated gender inequality, the Council was told when it took up the Secretary-General’s report titled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system”. The current crisis reveals women’s important contributions to all aspects of well-being at a time when past gains on maternal mortality and gender-based violence are being erased. While the United Nations strives to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment into its work, gaps remain that must be addressed. The Council adopted two proposals contained in the report: a resolution sharing the report’s title and a decision titled “Report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixty-fifth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the sixty-sixth session of the Commission.” It also took note of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its seventy-sixth, seventy-seventh and seventy-eighth sessions.
The Council then took up its agenda item on sustainable development, during which the representatives of Malawi, Bangladesh, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nepal and China all stressed the need for the international community and development partners to increase their support of countries graduating from least developed country status. The Council adopted a draft resolution titled “Report of the Committee for Development Policy on its twenty-third session.”
In other business, the Council adopted several resolutions and decisions pertaining to the recent and upcoming work of various subsidiary bodies, including the Statistical Commission, the United Nations Forum on Forests, the Commission on Population and Development, the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, the Committee of Experts on Public Administration, the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management and the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.
Also speaking were representatives of Switzerland, Japan, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Egypt and the European Union.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 9 June, to conclude its management segment.
GABRIELLA VUKOVICH (Hungary), Vice-Chair of the Statistical Commission at its fifty-second session, joining via videoconference, introduced that session’s report (document E/2021/24). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission’s fifty-second session was conducted remotely; the virtual platform allowed 1,000-plus delegates from 134 countries and 55 international agencies to join the annual meeting. The Commission’s report contains 17 technical decisions, which will guide the future work of the entire United Nations statistical system. She detailed several such decisions, including: the adoption of a new ecosystem-accounting framework; the endorsement of a new United Nations data portal as the main entry point for authoritative statistical data from the United Nations system; and the review of the Commission’s 50-year-old mandate with an eye towards modernization. Noting that data has become increasingly important over the past year, she said that statistical offices from around the world — under the leadership of the United Nations — have worked together to share data and experiences during this difficult, exceptional situation.
The Economic and Social Council then adopted the decision contained in the report titled “Report of the Statistical Commission on its fifty-second session and provisional agenda and dates of the fifty-third session of the Commission.”
Forum on Forests
KITTY SWEEB (Suriname), Chair of the sixteenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, presented the report of the Forum on its sixteenth session (document E/2021/42), noting that it was held from 26 to 29 April 2021 in a virtual format. Bringing together representatives from Member States, international and regional organizations, and stakeholders, the session held technical discussions on the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 and took stock of its progress. The Chair’s summary is the session’s main outcome document and includes proposals emerging from the technical discussions for consideration at the Forum’s policy session in 2022 and the Forum’s input to the high-level political forum on sustainable development in 2021. In addition, it considered and approved the programme of work of the Forum for 2022-2024 through a resolution.
The delegations of the European Union, Switzerland, Japan and Australia, who spoke also for Canada and New Zealand, requested more information regarding a vacant D-2 post for the Forum secretariat’s Director, an upgrade of a P-5 post to D-1 and the resultant budget implications. The Council noted their request.
The Council then adopted the resolution titled “Programme of work of the United Nations Forum on Forests for the period 2022–2024” and the draft decision on “Report of the United Nations Forum on Forests on its sixteenth session and provisional agenda for its seventeenth session”, both contained in the report.
APARNA MEHROTRA, Director of the United Nations System Coordination Division, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), presented the Secretary-General’s report titled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/2021/52). She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed both the centrality of women’s contributions to all aspects of well-being and the exaggerated costs and inequalities that the crisis imposed on women and girls everywhere, erasing past gains on maternal mortality, gender-based violence and the gender digital divide. She detailed United Nations efforts at the national level to mainstream gender equality in its work, including: integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into joint plans on AIDS in 36 countries; responding to all forms of violence against women and girls through the United Nations-European Union Spotlight Initiative; and supporting the production and use of gender statistics.
She said that gaps remain, however, such as the inconsistent application of gender analysis and lack of integration for gender considerations in areas like energy, infrastructure and digital inclusion. Responses addressing the care economy, unequal access to resources and the gender pay gap are also insufficient, as is progress towards tracking financial resources and establishing financial targets relating to gender equality. To address these issues, she pointed to several recommendations contained in the report, suggesting that the United Nations system should: provide stronger gender analysis and sex-disaggregated data for policy and programme development; strengthen the integration of gender considerations in technical areas where gender equality is not traditionally considered but hold significant potential for reducing inequality; and link financial tracking with the establishment of financial targets for gender equality.
SHILPA PULLELA (Australia), Vice-Chair of the sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, presented that session’s report (document E/2021/27), noting that the meeting’s hybrid format enabled the Commission to create opportunities for ministerial engagement to share experiences and lessons learned. Three Vice Presidents, a Prime Minister and 116 Ministers and ministerial-level representatives expressed their strong commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Further, more than 10,000 representatives from over 850 Council-accredited civil-society organizations participated. The Commission adopted agreed conclusions in six key areas: strengthening normative, legal and policy frameworks; preventing and eliminating violence against women in public life; strengthening gender-responsive institutional reform; increasing the availability of high-quality financing in support of women’s participation in public life; strengthening women’s voice; and addressing the root causes of gender inequality. The Commission emphasizes evaluating progress on agreed conclusions from previous sessions, she added.
The Council then adopted proposals contained in the report: the resolution titled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/2021/L.20) and the decision titled “Report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixty-fifth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the sixty-sixth session of the Commission.”
The Council also took note of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its seventy-sixth, seventy-seventh and seventy-eighth sessions (document A/76/38).
DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking via video conference, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes (document E/2021/4). The report focuses on the unprecedented effects of the pandemic, quoting preliminary estimates of an additional 88 to 115 million people likely to be pushed into extreme poverty and 150 million additional children likely to be driven into multidimensional poverty. Low income families have been especially hard hit by the pandemic resulting in loss of employment, precarious housing situations, lack of access to online schooling and loss of nutrition due to school closures to name but a few.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina), the Chair of the fifty-ninth session of the Commission for Social Development, presented the report (document E/2021/26) of the session, which was held 8 to 17 February 2021 in a hybrid format. She said the Commission recommended that the Council adopt three resolutions, respectively, “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission for Social Development”, “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” and “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.”
The Council then adopted these documents as well as the decision titled “Report of the Commission for Social Development on its fifty-ninth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the sixtieth session”.
It also confirmed the nomination of Olivier De Schutter (Belgium) and Graziella Moraes Silva (Brazil) to the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development for a four-year term beginning on 1 July 2021 and expiring on 30 June 2025, and authorized the Secretary-General to prepare, in consultation with the Board, a statute of the Institute and to promulgate it, and to request the Secretary-General to keep the Commission informed about the steps taken in this regard.
Population and Development
ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), Chair of the Commission on Population and Development’s fifty-fourth session, presented its report (to be issued as document E/2021/25) and said that the body was able to approve a substantive resolution on the special theme after years of stalemate. This resolution — on population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development — was approved by consensus and highlights how these issues matter for women and girls and how current food systems and diets impact sustainable development. Turning to working methods, he said that the Commission has devoted considerable efforts towards reviewing the same over its past two sessions. Consultations have revealed that, while the Commission has experienced a recent lack of consensus due to substantive differences between Member States and lack of political will, the overwhelming majority of Member States preferred approving resolutions and decisions by this method. He also detailed several lessons learned as a result of COVID-19’s change to regular working methods, including that in-person, formal meetings are a superior vehicle for taking decisions and acting on draft proposals.
The representative of Egypt, while praising the Commission’s flexibility and compromise during the COVID-19 crisis, recalled a statement his country delivered on 23 April that emphasized the sovereign right of each country to implement the programme of action consistent with national laws and priorities.
The Council then adopted the decision contained in the report titled “Report of the Commission on Population and Development on its fifty-fourth session and provisional agenda for its fifty-fifth session.”
SAKIKO FUKUDA-PARR (Japan), Vice-Chair of the twenty-third session of the Committee for Development Policy, speaking via videoconference, presented the report of the body on its twenty-third session (document E/2021/33). The Committee met in plenary session from 22-26 February in a virtual format, she said, noting that in 2021 the Committee conducted its triennial review of the least developed countries category in the midst of the pandemic, which threatens to reverse much of the progress that countries, including those vulnerable States, have made in advancing sustainable development. After careful consideration, the Committee decided to recommend the graduation of Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal. Due to the extraordinary challenges posed by COVID-19 and based on consultations with the countries, the preparatory period must be extended from three to five years. The Committee has deferred its decision on a recommendation for Myanmar and Timor-Leste to 2024.
The representative of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Group of the Least Developed Countries, stated that graduation is the end goal, but forces beyond their control, such as the pandemic, make flawless transition challenging. Partnership is therefore vital. Better planning can help prevent future derailment from sustainable development. The goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 was to graduate half of the countries in this category, he recalled, calling for greater efforts to ensure sustainable and irreversible graduation.
The representative of Bangladesh said that graduation was a long-cherished aspiration of her country. The year 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh, which aims to become a developed country by 2041. A key element of the resolution to be adopted is continuous monitoring of graduating and graduated countries to ensure sustainable and irreversible transition. Another element is the recognition of the need to integrate disaster risk reduction in sustainable development. Graduation is not only a success for a country but for multilateralism led by the United Nations. She also urged measures to incentivize graduation. “Graduation should be a reward, not punishment,” she stressed.
The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic urged development partners, the United Nations development system and the international community to firmly commit to enhance their support and assistance to a graduating country, particularly during this pandemic, while making sure that graduated countries continue to enjoy specific support measures for least developed countries for a certain period based on their actual development situations and needs.
The representative of Nepal said that the preparatory period of five years will definitely allow his country additional time to prepare for graduation while planning for a post-COVID-19 recovery and addressing the economic and social costs incurred by the pandemic, welcoming the arrangement through which the Committee would analyse at its 2024 triennial review whether the five-year preparatory period has been adequate or not.
The representative of China called on the international community to continue to increase support for least developed countries.
The Council then adopted resolution E/2021/L.18 titled “Report of the Committee for Development Policy on its twenty-third session.”
The Council next considered the report of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters on its twenty-second session (to be issued as document E/2021/45/Add.2), adopting the decision contained in the report titled “Provisional agenda for the twenty-third session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.”
Public Administration and Development
GERALDINE FRASER-MOLEKETI (South Africa), Chair of the twentieth session of the Committee of Experts, presented the report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its session (document E/2021/44). The Committee held its twentieth session from 12 to 21 April 2021 using a virtual platform. The overall theme was “Building inclusive, effective and resilient institutions for sustainable recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic and timely implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”, which was aligned with this year’s theme of the high-level political forum and the Economic and Social Council. On public finance and budgeting, the Committee emphasized that transparent, accountable and participatory management of public finances is a key element of effective governance, even more so during the pandemic. By leveraging public expenditure, Governments could lead by example, stimulating markets for sustainable products and services and helping steer society towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The Council the adopted the resolution titled “Report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its twentieth session” and the decision on “Dates and provisional agenda of the twenty-first session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration.”
The Council then adopted the decision titled “Dates of the eleventh session of the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management” (document E/2021/L.17).
Transport of Dangerous Goods
Romain Hubert, Chief of the Dangerous Goods and Road Safety Management Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, speaking via video conference, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (document E/2021/10).
The Council then adopted the resolution titled “Work of the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.”
Assistance to Third States Affected by Sanctions
The Council had no advance documentation and no draft proposal submitted under the item.