16 March 2010

Informal Interactive Hearings of the General Assembly with Non-governmental organizations, Civil society organizations and the Private sector

United Nations Headquarters, New York 14-15 June 2010

In order to provide input to the preparatory process for the ‘MDG summit’ (High-level Plenary Meeting) on 20-22 September 2010, the UN General Assembly, in resolution A/RES/64/184 has asked the President of its 64th session, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, to convene ‘Informal Interactive Hearings of the General Assembly with Non-governmental organizations, Civil society organizations and the Private sector’. The Hearings took place from 14-15 June 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Hearings were attended by representatives of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, civil society organizations and the private sector, Member States and observers. In addition to 46 official speakers in the meeting, 519 individuals representing 335 non-governmental, civil society and private sector organizations observed the Hearings. Of these, well over half were women.

The themes for the Hearings were based on the comprehensive report of the Secretary-General of 16 March 2010 < http://www.un-ngls.org/spip.php?pag...>. Accordingly, four interactive sessions were held on: “Building a better tomorrow: local actions, national strategies and global structures”; “Equal and inclusive partnerships: Accountability in the fight against poverty”; “Sustaining development and withstanding crises”; “From voice to policy: 1660 days left”. More information on the themes and the list of speakers for the event can be found here: http://www.un-ngls.org/spip.php?page=amdg10&id_article=2432

To assist him in preparing the meeting, the GA President formed a ‘Task Force’ of representatives of civil society and the private sector to advise him on the format and participation at the Hearings. Membership of the Task Force can be viewed at: http://www.un-ngls.org/spip.php?art...

Following an open online application process, over 760 speaking nominations were received for only 52 available speaking roles. A second online process was open for registration to attend the meeting as an observer from 6 – 23 May.

Hearings Overview

On Monday morning, 14 June 2010, the hearings were opened at a plenary meeting of the General Assembly by the President of the Assembly. His opening statement was followed by a video message from the Secretary-General.

Participants emphasized that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have proven to be a useful mobilization tool and an often unifying force in development. Many speakers reaffirmed the message of the Secretary-General in his report for the HLPM that the MDGs rest upon the Millennium Declaration and are an expression of basic human rights.

However, in order to fully realize and sustain the human rights of all people, the MDGs must be better rooted in a rights-based approach that emphasizes non-discrimination, participation and accountability mechanisms. In particular, the audience was reminded that over half the world’s population is composed of women; yet realizing gender equality remains one of the most difficult goals almost everywhere, with cross-cutting implications.

To ensure fulfilment of these rights, accountability must be strengthened and supported by frameworks that reinforce the mutual responsibility of developed and developing countries to meet the MDGs by 2015. Ultimately, through these frameworks, Member States, individually and collectively, must be accountable to their citizens and support the further empowerment of people and communities in their quest for development.

For many speakers, the onset of the multiple global food, financial, economic and climate crises only reinforced concerns expressed by civil society for many years that the prevailing economic development model of recent decades is unsustainable. Many participants echoed the Secretary-General’s call for strengthened national ownership of policies to pursue more inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable development paths. This implied greater policy space to mobilize domestic resources and align forward-looking macroeconomic and sectoral policies with development goals – currently often still restricted by inappropriate external policy conditionalities, trade rules and the constraints imposed by international financial markets. This pointed to the need for a major breakthrough at the HLPM on the “global partnership for development” under Goal 8, and requiring major reforms in international economic and development cooperation.

While non-compliance of developed countries with their commitments under Goal 8 was seen as a major obstacle, another was uneven domestic distribution of resources. It was noted that in recent years, many developing countries experienced high levels of economic growth, but poverty reduction and job creation lagged behind – so-called “jobless growth.” National ownership implies equally better using existing policy space to make genuine progress and breaking from what some described as a culture of dependency.

The Hearings provided an opportunity to hear examples of the many best practices that could be scaled up and replicated. For example:

- a. It was noted that the government of Malawi in 2004 brought back agricultural subsidies to small farmers that had been dismantled through earlier liberalization. Between 2005 and 2007, the country went from a food deficit of 43% to a food surplus of 57% as productivity increased two-fold. The proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day has fallen from 52% to 40%.

- b. In Brazil, the “Fome Zero” (Zero Hunger) programme involving a package of policies that include cash transfers, food banks, community kitchens and school meals reached over 44 million Brazilians suffering from hunger. This helped reduce child malnutrition by 73%.

- c. In India, the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme provides a legal guarantee of 100 days of employment a year for at least one member of rural households paid at the statutory minimum wage, reaching some 40 million households living below the poverty line.

These types of examples reinforced the view that the MDGs are achievable if the necessary political will is there.

Many participants welcomed the Secretary-General’s insistence on a holistic approach to the MDGs. A “sectoral” approach to the MDGs could lead to lack of policy coherence and dysfunctional outcomes, such as young people having benefited from adequate health and education services only to face an economic system that does not provide enough productive and decent jobs. Likewise, the MDGs have a number of targets designed to redress some of the most glaring gender inequalities – with much greater progress on access to education for girls than on reducing maternal mortality. But the focus on specific targets should not obscure the fact that overcoming gender inequality is a factor in achieving all the MDGs. In the same vein, biodiversity, ecosystems and natural processes (under Goal 7) provide key building blocks for poverty reduction under Goal 1: their demise increases the vulnerability of the poor and seriously jeopardizes the chances of meeting the MDGs.

Understanding how all the MDGs are inter-related is essential for thinking on how to move forward. For instance it was suggested that calls for more investments to improve the position of the most off-track MDGs and regions should be backed by additional resources to avoid cut backs on continued progress on other MDGs (for instance, a choice between access to schools and access to water, between health care and food). A broader holistic approach meant fully addressing the cross-cutting obstacles that undermine the realization of all MDGs – whether in relation to difficulties in mobilizing additional resources, unsustainable and inequitable development paths, or unaccountable governance structures at national and international levels.

The Hearings were closed by the President of the General Assembly at short plenary meeting on 15 June.

The President later issued his summary of the meeting as an official input to the process (A/65/117). It can be accessed by clicking on the icon below:

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A/65/117 - Official Summary by the President of the General Assembly