Economic and Social Council
2005 Substantive Session
29th Meeting (PM)
The international community was urged to stay the course in helping post-conflict countries make the transition to development, as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon began its consideration of general issues with a discussion led by its Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on Haiti, Burundi and Guinea-Bissau.
Introducing the report of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, its Chairman, Alan Rock of Canada, said that while the Group recognized that the chief responsibility for building a stable and democratic country rested in the hands of the Haitian people, the international community must play a supporting role over the longer term to consolidate stability and turn Haiti towards the achievement of the development goals.
For that to happen, he continued, the new Government would need to focus on a few areas that would demonstrate progress to the Haitian people. Consideration should be given to those “quick wins” identified by the Secretary-General’s Millennium Task Force that were appropriates in the Haitian context, while preparing the ground for longer-term investments in key areas.
Introducing the reports on the Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on Burundi and Guinea-Bissau, Xolisa Mabhongo of South Africa also urged a long-term commitment from the international community, not only during the critical period of political consolidation, but also well beyond.
In the discussions that followed the introduction of those reports, speakers agreed that the United Nations, other international institutions and bilateral donors should remain engaged during the transition from post-conflict to development.
Some speakers supported an extended role of the Ad Hoc Advisory Groups in that process, however, while others said their role should be limited. The representative of Guinea-Bissau, thanking the members of the Ad Hoc Group for their hard work and dedication to her country’s cause, said that, despite the ups and downs of the country from 2002 to date, the Group had been consistent in its advocacy on behalf of the country and in its recognition of the vital link between political stability and economic and social development. She strongly supported extension of its mandate.
The representative of the Russian Federation, while praising the Ad Hoc Group on Guinea-Bissau for bringing back multilateral donors such as the World Bank, said that the question of efficiency must be considered with regard to such Groups. Their purpose must not be forgotten. They were to be special interim ECOSOC instruments; repeated extension of mandates defeated the purpose.
Similarly, the United States’ representative said Ad Hoc Advisory Groups must avoid duplication and to not go beyond their mandates. In particular, she admonished the advisory Group on Haiti for making recommendations on organizations, such as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), that were under the aegis of the Security Council.
Replying for the Advisory Group on Haiti, Mr. Rock said that the mandate of the Group was to set up the framework for long-term development and its recommendations on MINUSTAH were given towards that end. An integrated approach to getting Haiti out of its tough situation required a shared commitment and practical steps that might go beyond jurisdictional boundaries.
Earlier this afternoon, introducing the wide variety of issues contained in the general segment, Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said ECOSOC had already made significant progress in its efforts to enhance coherence in such multifaceted work. Flexibility in programming was also important. In all discussions of the varied issues, however, the fundamental question should remain: “What change in policies and processes must be introduced to further the United Nations Development Agenda and the internationally agreed development goals?”
Roland Pierre, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, also made a statement.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Burundi, China, Nigeria.
In addition, the United Nations Resident Coordinators of Guinea-Bissau and Haiti made statements. A representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also spoke.
The Economic and Social Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 19 July, to continue its general segment.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met this afternoon to begin the general segment of its substantive session with a consideration of coordination, programme and other questions. The Council has before it a report on support for Haiti and one on African countries emerging from conflict. (For background on the current session, see Press Release ECOSOC/6154 dated 23 June.)
The report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti (document E/2005/66) summarizes the Group’s work in the year since its reactivation in July 2004, including on results of a joint trip to the country with the Security Council in April. The report states that the new Government to be installed in February 2006 would face enormous challenges. However, progress had been made on macroeconomic stability and governance. There was also the possibility of a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative.
According to the report, the first action of the new Government should be to determine its short-, medium- and long-term priorities according to a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) to serve as the basis for the medium-term planning document. A broad range of civil society players should be engaged to create national dialogue. The focus should be on a limited number of key improvements to show rapid progress. The sequence of activities would be critical in building stronger ministries and services. Also, in ensuring that steps to modernize the economy were of benefit to the poor.
The report addressed recommendations to ECOSOC, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the United Nations country team, the Haitian authorities and the donor community. They include the forming of a partnership between the Group and the Government to develop mechanisms to reinforce the coordination of long-term prospects for capacity-building support and to advocate for increased bilateral and multilateral cooperation between Haiti and others. Also, that the Group play a role in promoting socio-economic dimensions of the demobilization programme and identify sustainable resources to continue it. The Group could also play an advocacy role at the intergovernmental level on steps to alleviate chronic poverty. The United Nations system should play a robust and sustained role as the Group promoted a smooth transition to sustainable economic development once MINUSTAH’s mandate is fulfilled.
In its report, the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau (document E/2005/70) again drew attention to the importance of addressing the security sector in the country, particularly during the current period of electoral rounds for a new president from among an initial 17 candidates. The second round is scheduled for the end of July. The report says that, in view of concern over political instability, the Secretary-General appointed a Special Envoy to Burundi in May. Other measures to address the insecurity include Security Council consideration and a declaration by an emergency session of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries that called on all parties to respect the inviolability of a transitional charter. It also stated that political normalization was a precondition for international assistance in reconstruction. Regional efforts to ensure calm involved the participation in talks of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The report concludes that Guinea-Bissau is a small country with complex problems and that the situation would remain fragile for some time. Therefore, weaknesses in the security sector must be addressed, including the growing ethnic division in the military and the availability of small arms. Also to be addressed are the need for predictable and adequate amounts of resources to ensure the delivery of basic services. Measures must be taken to augment the minimum functioning of the State that contributed to a sense of uncertainty and insecurity. In view of the lack of progress in economic and social spheres and with the danger of further fragmentation, the Group should continue to monitor the evolving situation, since any grievance could create fertile ground for further violence.
The Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Burundi says in its report (document E/2005/82) that the successful referendum on the post-transition Constitution in February was encouraging in the strong support voters had expressed. The subsequent swearing-in of the new President in August would mark the end of the transition process. Progress had also been made since December in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, with the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) having disarmed and demobilized over 9,600 former combatants, including 3,000 child soldiers. However, challenges remained in the areas of returning refugees and internally displaced; food insecurity; health; economic growth; and insufficient economic governance for developing public infrastructures, promoting development and diversifying economic activities and exports.
The Group says that every effort needs to be made to sustain the peace process and improve the socio-economic living conditions during the transition period and immediately after. Recommendations are focused on four themes: maintaining the momentum and consolidating the peace process; promoting stability; alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable development; and reinforcing international partnerships.
To capitalize on the great strides made during the United Nations presence, the Group recommends that it be allowed to continue its work during and beyond the transitional period, with the possibility of undertaking a mission to Burundi late this year. It also recommends maximizing donor support in the post-transition period, including through a round table the Group would promote with development partners such as the World Bank, to ensure the fragile new Government has the funding to implement recovery programmes. The Group urged the international community and donors to provide additional assistance for short- and long-term needs to fuel the transition from relief to development, since support for the Government with commensurate means and resources would be critical for ensuring that the peace process was irreversible.
Introduction of Segment
PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, introducing the general segment of the substantive session, said ECOSOC had already made significant progress in its efforts to enhance coherence in its overall work. The Secretariat had endeavoured to support that effort by structuring and preparing its reports so as to highlight linkages.
For further progress on this front, the broad consensus on the United Nations Development Agenda provided the framework, he said. Listing the components of the segment, he said that flexibility in programming was also important. In all discussions of the segment, however, the fundamental question should remain: “What change in policies and processes must be introduced to further the United Nations Development Agenda and the internationally agreed development goals?”
ALAN ROCK (Canada), Chair of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, noted that, during a visit to Haiti in April, he was particularly struck by the fragility of the Haitian environment to natural disaster and that he was now paying greater attention to the progress of tropical storms and hurricanes.
He added that, while the Group recognized that the chief responsibility for building a stable and democratic country rested in the hands of the Haitian people, the international community must play a supporting role over the longer term. With that in mind, the Group would address its recommendations to ECOSOC, MINUSTAH, the United Nations country team, the Haitian authorities and the donor community.
He further noted that a great deal needed to be done to strengthen the legitimacy of State institutions in the eyes of the population. Engaging in a decentralized process of decision-making and resources, without diminishing the fragile authority of the central Government, was also necessary to unleash the economic potential of neglected departments.
In view of the fact that the new Government would need to focus on a few areas that would demonstrate to the Haitian people that action was being taken, consideration should be given to those “quick wins” identified by the Secretary-General’s Millennium Task Force that were appropriates in the Haitian context, while preparing the ground for longer-term investments in key areas. Attention should also be given to the sequencing of activities in order to build stronger government ministries and services and to ensure that steps to modernize the economy had a positive effect on the poor. As a key element of justice sector reform, the new government would also need to revise legal codes and law enforcement services. Work was also under way to lay the foundation for a PRSP, which the incoming Government could consider as its medium-term planning document.
In closing, he said that much work remains to be done and the international community must recommit itself to accompanying the Haitian people in the process over the long term. In that context, in a letter dated 6 June, 2005, Haiti’s Prime Minister Gérard Latortue wrote to the President of ECOSOC to request that the mandate of the Group be extended. Thus, he was tabling a resolution on behalf of all members of the Group for consideration of the Council.
ROLAND PIERRE, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, said the new Government had agreed to go forward in cooperation with ECOSOC in the large number of areas where real progress was still to be made. The ECOSOC had two important roles: advocacy and integration. First, ECOSOC facilitated the acceleration of development by forming links between Government and other players, including those in the donor community. Then, ECOSOC helped to implement and coordinate actions to be carried out.
He said donors had blocked the financing they had pledged for activities in his country, including after the disputed 2000 elections. The ECOSOC must be the advocate for developing countries in getting donors to respect the priorities national leaders set out in defining their programmes. It was the only way to win support for programmes at the local level. So, ECOSOC must help with mobilizing donors and facilitating partnerships. The role of integrating development measures into national programmes continued to fall to MINUSTAH. In the sustained pilot programme being developed, ECOSOC would be an intermediary with the Government and other actors. As with all developing countries now, Haiti’s long-term programme would include a 10-year poverty-reduction strategy. It would be developed within the framework of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) not only with regard to developing the strategy, but also in implementing it.
ADAMA GUINDO, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti and United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, said that the country team had done everything possible to work with local authorities to set up ways of combating poverty in the long term. It launched a national dialogue on the Millennium Development Goals with both the population of Haiti and its political leaders.
The country team had also helped setting up the next budget and in advising on a long-term strategic plan. Among capacities that needed strengthening were justice, decentralization, legislative bodies and electoral councils, the Government had determined.
JANICE MILLER (Jamaica), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the work of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group should continue to take into account the peculiarities of the situation confronting Haiti in addressing its development. It was important for the people to have a stake in the process. In addition, measures must be taken to avoid hindering in the disbursement of pledges, to allow for the early implementation employment-generation projects, which could minimize tensions.
Assistance should also include debt relief, she said, and be rendered in the priority areas of: policing; restoration of justice and the rule of law; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; human rights; and the improvement of the condition of the poor. The ECOSOC should continue to accompany Haiti on its path towards recovery and development. For that reason, the Group of 77 and Chinasupported the renewal of the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti and called for adequate financial resources to be made available for its continued work.
JO MOIR (United Kingdom), on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, supported the way the Ad Hoc Group on Haiti had conducted its mandate by consulting all relevant partners. In addition, the joint mission with the Security Council demonstrated how development, human rights and security were strongly linked.
As the socio-economic, security and human rights situations in Haiti remained fragile and a matter of great concern, Haiti needed the sustained support of the international community, she said. For that purpose, the elaboration of a poverty-reduction strategy would be one of the key mechanisms to help the transitional government and its successors stay on track for long-term development.
In addition, she said, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should be done in a long-term manner and be complemented by activities to build up the rule of law. Elections were critical to stability, and the European Union had committed €10 million to support them. In conclusion, she noted that the Group’s experience could be taken into account in the broader context of ongoing discussions within the United Nations on the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission.
BENEDICTO FONSECA FILHO (Brazil) thanked the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group Chairman for the comprehensive representation of the Group’s activities and said that Brazil aligned itself with the Group statements and conclusions made on behalf of the Group. He noted that, although Haiti’s problems required a long-term approach, some things must be addressed in the short term in order to ensure success. Free and fair elections later this year were the most pressing challenge facing Haiti, and Brazil believed that all elected officials should take office on 7 February 2006.
He also noted that there could be no genuine stability without positive developments in the areas of safe living conditions and the promotion of social and economic development. It was also essential to speed up implementation of “quick action” projects reflecting propriety areas identified by the Government.
ANTHONY DAVID EDGHILL (Trinidad and Tobago) said his country was part of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti. The dire socio-economic conditions that existed in the country must be addressed. It was obvious that progress could be made, since it had already been demonstrated in many areas. More funds must be channelled into making progress through government mechanisms, rather than through civil actors, since only strong government structures could address the broad improvements needed, such as building a strong infrastructure and judicial system. The insecurity must also be addressed by strengthening the demobilization programme to make it effective. Poverty could not be defeated as long as gangs kept people in terror.
Finally, he said, the international community must find a way to disburse the nearly $2 billion that had been held back after being pledged in 1994. The Ad Hoc Advisory Group’s mandate should be extended by a year, and all assistance must be provided to help the people of Haiti realize their human rights.
ANN LOW (United States) said the Ad Hoc Advisory Group must heed the Council’s directive to avoid duplication and to not go beyond its mandate. The MINUSTAH was under the direction of the Security Council. The Group should not have called for its continuation.
ANDREJ PIROGOV (Russian Federation) said a clear strategy for the way forward in Haiti was lacking. The new Government must set out short-, medium- and long-term goals in cooperation with the Group. It was unfortunate the Group had not been able to avoid duplication of work with others.
Mr. ROCK (Canada), of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group, commenting on the statement of the United States, said that the mandate of the Group was to set up the framework for long-term development, and its recommendations on MINUSTAH and the United Nations country team were given towards that end. In addition, an integrated approach to getting Haiti out of its tough situation required a shared commitment and practical steps, while respect for jurisdictional issues should be maintained.
XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa), introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Burundi (document E/2005/82), saying support for socio-economic activities in the country must be sustained during this critical period. It was more crucial than ever to support capacity-building within the Government in critical areas.
Ms. MILLER (Jamaica), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the case of Burundi now provided the international community with the real opportunity to ensure that the country did not relapse into conflict. The new Government and its people needed sustained support. She recognized the positive contribution made by donors, thus far, and called for the increased disbursement of funds committed at the Forum of Development Partners held in Brussels in 2004, and full financing of the Consolidated Appeal for 2005.
She also called on the Bretton Woods institutions to allow Burundi access to the HIPC Initiative. In addition, she supported the convening of a donor round table to bolster the new Government. Since the Ad Hoc Advisory Group had a role to play in the transition to development, she strongly supported the continuation of its work.
Ms. MOIR (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the Union welcomed the progress made in Burundi over the past year, particularly with regard to the ongoing election process and the continuing forward momentum in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. However, issues such as improving food security, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing support to its victims, strengthening governance and encouraging sound financial management remained critical challenges.
The Union agreed with the Ad Hoc Group’s recommendation that the international community should continue to provide strong support to the Government of Burundi to meet the short- and medium-term needs based on PRSP priorities and to finance the Consolidated Appeal Process for 2005.
However, although the Union remained committed to providing assistance for Burundi at this critical time, it believed that the modalities of that support should be decided on by the Government with lead donors, and, in that regard, the Union is not convinced of the value of the Ad Hoc Group promoting another donor round-table meeting. She also said that the Ad Hoc Group had played a useful role so far and should continue until the new Government of Burundi was in place. But, after that, a further extension of the mandate should be considered by ECOSOC, while also taking developments on the Peacebuilding Commission into consideration. Further, the experience of the Ad Hoc Advisory Groups could be taken into account in the broader context of ongoing discussions within the United Nations on the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission.
Mr. PIROGOV (Russian Federation) expressed gratitude to the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Africa and noted that Burundi’s success will be marked by the consolidation of social progress and progress towards sustainable development. He also said that continued international attention and support was important for a successful transition.
LÉONIDAS NKINGIYE (Burundi) said the transition period in his country would come to an end with the election at the end of this month. Countries should use their influence to make sure the negotiations for peace were successful, because the war had wreaked havoc. As neighbours and partners could attest, coffee production had dropped and the economy had suffered. The number of poor had doubled since the hostilities broke out, and the value of the currency had dropped. Meantime, foreign debt continued to be a great challenge and meeting internal needs was beyond the means of the national treasury. The demobilization programmes and those to fight AIDS were expensive. The Government was taking all measures to implement the HIPC Initiative. Donors and development partners were welcome and the Ad Hoc Group’s mandate should continue.
LIV ZHONGXIN (China) said successful election processes in both Burundi and Guinea-Bissau showed the two countries were on their way back to stability and democracy. However, many challenges stood before each country, and the international community must help them with concrete actions, such as technical assistance. Her country had been involved with the development process in both countries, including by providing economic, technical and political support. It would continue to engage with both countries.
ADO VAHER, of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that, while there has been significant progress made in the political transition, children were still facing daunting challenges and high mortality rates from mostly preventable diseases, in an environment characterized by widespread poverty and limited public authority capacities.
Women and children also continued to bear the greatest share of the hardship and suffering from the aftermath of the conflict, including violence, internal and external displacements, sexual exploitation and abuse, separation of families, destruction of social infrastructure and reduced access to basic social services such as health, education and water.
In working with other partners, UNICEF had supported programmes to respond to the deterioration in the provision of basic social services to the neediest and most vulnerable segments of the population in the areas of health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS and protection. In an effort to leverage results for children, partnerships were established with United Nations country team members, civil society at large, and national and international non-governmental organizations.
In highlighting some key results, UNICEF said the back-to-school programme in Burundi had helped return half a million children to school, immunization rates had increased, new treatment protocols for malaria had been approved and 2.2 million cases had been treated with new drugs provided my UNICEF. Also, close to 3,000 child soldiers had been demobilized and reintegrated into their communities and capacity-building activities were undertaken for support and care of sexual violence victims. In partnership with other United Nations agencies, UNICEF was also helping to meet the needs of 80,000 returnees.
The general situation had continued to improve, but programme implementation had faced prominent challenges, he said. The challenges included: lack of security and stability; the ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse of children; child labour; and numerous HIV/AIDS orphans and conflict orphans -- 620,000 in Burundi -- with little or no access to basic services, such as health and education. The conflict had resulted in the near collapse of social sectors and, as refugees continued to return home to Burundi, the land tenure issues were a greater challenge to ensuring peaceful and equitable reinstallation and reintegration.
In conclusion, he said UNICEF supported the AD Hoc Advisory Group’s recommendations focusing on maintaining the momentum and consolidating the peace process, on promoting stability and alleviating poverty, on sustainable development and on reinforcing international partnership. The UNICEF intended to remain an active partner in the Burundi transition and use its experience to continue to support the fulfilment of the rights and needs of children and women in Burundi.
DOTUN ODUNEYE (Nigeria), speaking as Chair of the African Union, commended Burundi and the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Burundi for its work in that country. She called for the Group to continue with its work until the new government came into office and issued a call to international donors to continue to support Burundi’s ongoing transition.
Mr. MABHONGO (South Africa) introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau (document E/2005/70). He said that there was good news to report since the report was released: elections were successfully held on 19 June. The situation remained fragile, however, and many problems remained, including a cholera epidemic. He called for emergency technical assistance to help deal with that problem. A capacity-building plan and an economic diversification plan for the country were also urgently needed, and he called for the country’s partners to boost their investments in those areas, as well as in the reorganization of security forces.
MICHEL BALIMA, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guinea-Bissau, said that the 19 June elections were considered free and fair, with high turnout in a peaceful atmosphere. The international community assisted greatly in that success, as did the armed forces and civil society. The United Nations agencies, the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), and other international institutions had formed an effective partnership, along with bilateral donors, towards assisting the Government to resume social services and reduce tensions by paying salaries.
Despite the gains made, he said great challenges remained. Sixty-six per cent of the population was unemployed and around 44 per cent had no access to clean drinking water. At the same time, the Government was heavily in debt and was running large deficits. Investment was needed in education and other sectors that could build human capacity, as well as in sectors that could expand economic growth. Initiatives to reform the armed forces were ongoing and the United Nations country team was implementing quick-impact and microcredit projects. He urged donor governments to provide support in all those areas at the round-table conference, to put Guinea-Bissau solidly on the road to stability and development.
Ms. MILLER (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, acknowledged that the Ad Hoc Advisory Group had done well to keep Guinea-Bissau on the international agenda. However, the country was in need of sustained assistance from the international community to survive and continue its progress. She also said that the Group of 77 endorsed an expansion of the donor base, and she called for Guinea-Bissau to play a role in the planning of a donor round. She further noted that the Group of 77 was in full support of the extension of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group’s mandate.
MARIA ANTONIETA PINTO LOPES D’ALVA (Guinea-Bissau), associating her statement with that made by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, thanked the members of the Ad Hoc Group for their hard work and dedication to her country’s cause. Despite the ups and downs of the country from 2002 to date, the Group had been consistent in its advocacy on behalf of the country and in its recognition of the vital link between political stability and economic and social development.
She said the elections of this year and last were concrete signs of the commitment by the people, the Government and civil society to build durable peace and stability. However, the country still remained in a fragile situation. After elections were completed, it would still need the strong support of the international community to solve its urgent problems in the areas of public administration and the education and health sectors.
She thanked the United Nations and its partners for its assistance in the elections, and also thanked bilateral partners for their assistance in battling the cholera epidemic. She called on both old and new partners to strongly participate in the donor round table to be held in the last trimester of 2005. She stood fully behind the conclusions of the preparatory meeting for that round table, including the need for further improvements in the Government’s financial management.
Mr. PIROGOV (Russian Federation) said he supported the direction the Ad Hoc Group on Guinea-Bissau was taking, particularly in bringing back multilateral donors such as the World Bank. The question of efficiency should be considered with regard to both Groups. Their purpose must not be forgotten. They were to be special interim ECOSOC instruments and repeated extension of mandates defeated the purpose. Conclusions in reports should relate to activities of the anticipated Peacebuilding Commission. Reports should also reflect the coordination of actions between ECOSOC and the Security Council.