Sixtieth General Assembly
28th Meeting (PM)
Expressing concern over the effects of civil war on Somalia, ongoing drought and the 2004 tsunami, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) recommended that the General Assembly urge donor countries, regional and subregional organizations to contribute to that country's reconstruction and rehabilitation, through the rapid assistance programme and efforts coordinated by the United Nations, according to one of four draft resolutions that it approved unanimously today.
By other terms of that draft, the Assembly would call on the international community to assist in establishing aggressive programmes focusing on short-, medium- and long-term measures in the areas of institutional development, policy and legislation development, land use and soil management, marine and coastal ecosystem management, and disaster management. It should also assist in conducting critical assessments of environmental impacts in tsunami-affected areas, drought and flood-affected areas, and of toxic and other wastes.
Also by that text, on assistance for humanitarian relief and the economic and social rehabilitation of Somalia (document A/C.2/60/L.8/Rev.2), the Assembly would urge Somali leaders to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance by improving security on the ground, among other actions. It would also urge the international community to support the need for peacebuilding measures and for the speedy implementation of programmes for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of militias throughout Somalia, to stabilize the entire country and ensure the effectiveness of its Transitional Federal Government. The Assembly would further call on the international community to urgently provide assistance and relief to the Somali people, to alleviate the consequences of the civil war.
Further by the draft, the Assembly would urge all States, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to assist the transitional federal institutions to embark on the rehabilitation of basic social and economic services, as well as institution-building, at all levels throughout the country. In addition, it would urge the Somali parties to respect the security and safety of United Nations personnel, those of its specialized agencies, non-governmental organizations and all other humanitarian personnel, and to guarantee their complete freedom of movement and safe access throughout Somalia.
By another draft, on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction for El Salvador and Guatemala (document A/C.2/60/L.9/Rev.1), the General Assembly would call on the international community to respond to the Flash Appeal for Guatemala, and to the joint United Nations Agency Appeal in El Salvador, in the wake of tropical storm Stan. Also by that text, the Assembly would appeal to Member States and United Nations bodies, as well as international financial institutions and development agencies, to support the relief, rehabilitation and assistance effort for those countries.
The Assembly would, by further terms of that text, emphasize the importance of investing in disaster-risk reduction, and encourage the international community to cooperate with the Governments of El Salvador and Guatemala towards that end. By other terms, it would request the United Nations, international financial institutions and development agencies to help the affected populations of El Salvador and Guatemala, to overcome the emergency by rehabilitating their economies, in line with short-, medium- and long-term national priorities, and to help them strengthen their disaster preparedness.
By a draft on economic assistance for the reconstruction and development of Djibouti (document A/C.2/60/L.5/Rev.1), approved as orally amended, the General Assembly would appeal to all Governments, international financial institutions, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations to respond adequately to the country's financial and material needs, in line with its poverty-reduction strategy. Also by that text, the Assembly would encourage the Government of Djibouti to continue its efforts to consolidate democracy, the promotion of good governance and the eradication of poverty, despite difficult economic and regional realities.
A draft resolution on the International Year of Planet Earth, 2008 (document A/C.2/60/L.10/Rev.1), approved as orally amended, would have the General Assembly declare 2008 the International Year of Planet Earth. It would also designate the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to organize activities to be undertaken during the Year, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other relevant United Nations bodies, the International Union of Geological Sciences and other Earth sciences societies and groups throughout the world. Also by the draft, the Assembly would encourage Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to use the Year to increase awareness of the importance of Earth sciences in achieving sustainable development and promoting local, national, regional and international action.
Following its action on those texts, the Committee held a panel discussion on energy efficiency, where delegates heard that "energy poverty" presented a lucrative business opportunity for entrepreneurs willing to take the initiative. Philip LaRocco, founder and Chief Executive of E+Co, a non-profit provider of services and capital to developing-country enterprises delivering modern energy, said that burdens faced by the energy-poor -- a child studying by the light of a kerosene lamp, a mother slaving over a wood stove, or a girl walking miles to fetch water -- could be lifted with the aid of modern energy.
He said that the world's poor paid dearly for second- and third-rate energy, and macro-level "technology pushes" were often hit-or-miss in the goal of providing universal access to energy. A small movement had recently emerged to take advantage of the disconnect between unmet energy demands and inefficient supply mechanisms. With the help of investors, 100 medium-sized enterprises around the world had begun providing liquid petroleum gas to replace charcoal for cooking, and delivering 44 million litres of clean water to about 30,000 households.
To date, $132 million in investments and business services had been given to those enterprises, serving a total of 2.1 million people, he said. The movement was entrepreneur-driven, energy-neutral (rather than reliant on a "technology push"), and local in nature. E+Co's ambition was to scale up the process so that 8 to 10 million people could be served by the end of decade. One hundred million was the tipping point that formed the movement's ultimate goal.
In a similar vein, Diego Arjona Arguelles, Executive Secretary to Mexico's National Commission for Energy Conservation, said that energy efficiency was good business for his country, and it had triggered a national campaign for the intelligent use of energy. For instance, the National Commission worked with the Mexican oil company PEMEX, to develop an energy efficiency network to produce energy savings equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil. Its other activities -- including its support for the Mexican Mining Chamber, the National Association of Chemical Industries, the National Chamber of Iron and Steel and the National Chamber for Transportation -- were good examples of public-private cooperation.
Another panellist was Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy, who said that energy efficiency was seen as the cheapest, quickest and cleanest way to expand resources and meet demand. Codes on minimum levels of energy efficiency for manufactured products and buildings, tax breaks for energy-efficient products, and the development of ever more efficient products had led to energy savings of 40 per cent in the United States.
Also on the panel was Vijay Modi, Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, who said that access to small amounts of energy could make a huge difference to people's lives without affecting the global climate. Some developing and emerging economies had increased their energy consumption over the past few decades, but they still only used about one tenth of the amount consumed in the United States, Europe and other developed economies.
Emphasis on the global environment and linking energy with "sustainable" was creating difficulties for developing countries, as developed countries projected their own problems onto poor nations. The international community should focus on access and technology that made the most sense, rather than putting additional constraints on the poor in terms of "sustainable energy". Expenditures of $3 per capita could take a country from no energy access to some access. The least expensive ways to obtain mechanical power in many communities was diesel, he noted, making the case for technologies that allowed people to emerge from poverty.
Responding to a question on energy consumption in the United States, Ms. Callahan noted that energy had traditionally been cheap in the United States, and the tendency had been to build large houses, more powerful cars and other supersized amenities. Now, however, rising energy prices were changing consumer behaviour and people were turning to fuel-efficient vehicles, for example. Energy efficiency would continue to make gains in the country, and may stay ahead of the need for more vehicles, bigger houses and energy consuming products. Hopefully, the current energy crisis would help push through policies aimed at conserving energy for the future.
Mr. Arjona Arguelles emphasized the need to change people's attitudes by teaching them that conserving energy was important and convincing them that it was a "polite way to live". In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of energy-efficient small-scale houses had been built for poor people who had previously never possessed them. Such projects should make use of new technologies, perhaps by installing solar panels, eliminating the need to spend excessive amounts of money on fuels.
In his opening remarks, Stefano Toscano (Switzerland), Vice-Chairman of the Second Committee observed that investment in energy efficiency, and the development of clean-energy technologies held much potential for both developed and developing countries.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 November, to take up eradication of poverty and other development issues.