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Economic and Social Council sets out themes for next three annual ministerial reviews, 2011 humanitarian segment as it adopts five texts

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Economic and Social Council
2011 Organizational Session
9th Meeting (AM)

Actions Include Appointment of France to Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti

In a burst of activity today, the Economic and Social Council unanimously adopted four decisions and one resolution, laying out, among other things, the themes of its annual ministerial reviews over the next three years, as well as those for the humanitarian segment and the agenda item on regional cooperation of its 2011 substantive session, to be held in Geneva in July.

Adopting the decision on the multi-year programme of work for its next three annual ministerial reviews (document E/2011/L.4), submitted by facilitator Nojibur Rahman (Bangladesh), the Council decided that the theme of the 2012 Annual Ministerial Review would be “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals”. The theme of the 2013 Review would be “Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals”; and that of 2014, “Addressing ongoing and emerging challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and for sustaining development gains in the future”.

By a second decision (document E/2011/L.6), the Council decided that the agenda item on regional cooperation would be held under the theme “Regional cooperation as a catalyst for development: examples from the regions”. Before the action on that text, Council President Lazarous Kapambwe ( Zambia) said the Bureau had asked the Regional Commissions Office in New York to invite the Executive Secretaries to include the education aspect of the Millennium Development Goals in their presentations under that theme in July.

Taking action on the third decision (document E/2011/L.6), tabled by Council Vice-President Jan Grauls ( Belgium), the Council decided that the theme for the humanitarian affairs segment would be “Working in partnership to strengthen coordination of humanitarian assistance in a changing world”. The segment would feature two panels on, respectively, “Preparing for the future: predictable, effective, flexible and adequate humanitarian financing and its accountable use to meet the evolving needs and challenges in the delivery of humanitarian assistance” and “Strengthening resilience, preparedness and capacities for humanitarian response”.

Introducing the text of the fourth decision, by which the Council appointed France to the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, Canada’s representative welcomed the new member. Noting the close attention paid to the outcome of Haiti’s recent presidential and legislative elections, he also congratulated President-elect Michel Martelly, saying that members of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group would visit the country in mid-June, once its new Government was formed.

Speaking before that action, France’s representative highlighted the “long-standing and distinct” ties between her country and Haiti. She said political stability would allow an intensified focus on the island nation’s development, stressing that it was in that context that France sought to join the Ad Hoc Advisory Group with the aim of making a particular contribution.

The Council also adopted a resolution on the report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its ninth session (document E/2011/L.5), recognizing the key role of public administration and public governance in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and in addressing challenges posed by global crises.

In that context, the Council requested the Secretariat, among other things, to give due recognition to innovative public sector initiatives, support the development of the United Nations Public Administration Network for partnership-building, assist in implementing the Plan of Action on issues relating to e-government, and help countries develop their public institutions and human resources in order to strengthen national ownership and capacity to formulate national development strategies.

The Council then turned its attention to the Secretary-General’s report on “Strengthening of institutional arrangements to promote international cooperation in tax matters, including the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters” (document E/2011/76), presented by Alexander Trepelkov, Director of the Financing for Development Office in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Mr. Trepelkov said the report reviewed existing institutional arrangements, including complementarities between the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation and Tax Matters and other international organizations, such as the Bretton Woods institutions. It also summarized the views of States and presented options for the Council to strengthen the Organization’s institutional capacity to promote international tax cooperation.

Drawing upon the views of States and other relevant material, three options had been devised, he said, citing: strengthening existing arrangements within the United Nations while retaining the current format of the Committee of Experts; converting the Committee into an intergovernmental commission serving as a subsidiary body of the Council; and creating an intergovernmental commission while retaining the Committee as its subsidiary body.

Under the first option, he said, efforts would be made to enhance the effectiveness of existing arrangements, including the Committee’s methods of work, which would allow work to continue with no need for adjustments and transitional provisions. However, the option did not address the “profound” need for a truly global norm-setting body for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level, which would offer developing countries “a full seat at the table”.

The second option provided for the creation of a global, all-inclusive body for international tax cooperation at the United Nations, he continued. It would prepare draft resolutions and draft decisions on tax policy and tax administration issues on behalf of the Council, and submit them directly to it for action. However, it would risk disrupting ongoing work and thus require putting transitional provisions in place with a view to ensuring completion of the 2011 update of the United Nations Model Tax Convention.

He went on to say that the third option was the most comprehensive in terms of allowing developing countries effective participation in discussions of cooperation on tax matters, while ensuring that the Committee’s work would not be disturbed. It would afford the most flexibility in responding to the need for enhanced cooperation. On the other hand, it would probably be the most resource-intensive option and, should a draft proposal be submitted to the Council for action, the Secretariat would respond with a statement on programme budget implications.

Additional resources would be needed and must be allocated under all three options, irrespective of whether a conversion was proposed, he emphasized. Ensuring that the United Nations played its proper role in such areas would help significantly to enhance the mobilization of domestic resources for development, while responding to an urgent need for greater cooperation on tax matters in the common pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates underscored the importance of tax cooperation to the modern global economy, with many emphasizing the need for a universal forum embodying truly democratic principles on a level playing field. A number of speakers expressed strong support for upgrading the Committee’s status to an intergovernmental commission, arguing that developing countries needed a voice at the decision-making table. “The day is gone when there are rule makers and rule takers,” one speaker stressed.

Other delegates dismissed all three proposals as “disjointed”, saying there was no consensus on upgrading the Committee’s status. Discouraged by the report’s focus on areas of non-agreement, they called for a more pragmatic approach, beginning with a more informed discussion on working methods. Still other representatives said discussion was needed on improving follow-up mechanisms in the area of financing for development. Given entrenched conceptual contradictions, it would be counter-productive to upgrade the Committee’s status at the present stage, as reform risked politicizing any new body and having a negative impact on its effectiveness. More generally, other delegates argued for more transparency to improve overall tax collection, which was essential to the functioning of the State and the mobilization of resources for development.

Council President Kapambwe ( Zambia), noting that additional consultations were required, said Paul Klouman Bekken ( Norway) had agreed to lead them and invited delegates to consult the Journal on the logistics.

In final business today, he reminded delegates that, with regard to its 2011 organizational session, the Council still had to discuss the transition from relief to development. Informal consultations were being conducted on that last outstanding matter.

There were also two pending issues from the resumed 2010 substantive session, he said, recalling that action on the draft proposal entitled “Establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development” (document E/2010/L.37) had been deferred until the 2011 substantive session. Informal consultations would begin soon, he added.

Speaking in today’s debate were representatives of the Bahamas (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Switzerland, Barbados, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Mauritius, Canada, Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Pakistan and Australia.

Also speaking, as observers, were representatives of Rules for Global Finance Coalition, Tax Justice Network, Passionists International and the Global Policy Forum.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 27 April, when it will hold elections to fill vacancies in its subsidiary bodies.

For information media • not an official record