18 December 1997

Press Release


19971218 Decides To Consider Market Access in Context Of Globalization and Liberalization at 1998 High-Level Segment

As it concluded its 1997 substantive session this morning, the Economic and Social Council decided to discuss as main themes of its 1998 substantive session the question of market access in the context of globalization and liberalization, particularly for developing countries; follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; and the role of United Nations operational activities in promoting women's advancement.

The theme for the high-level segment reads as follows: "Market access: developments since the Uruguay Round, implications, opportunities and challenges, in particular for developing countries and the least developed countries among them, in the context of globalization and liberalization".

The theme for the coordination segment is "Coordinated follow-up to, and implementation of, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action". For the high-level meeting of the operational activities segment, the theme will be "Advancement of women, implementation of the Platform for Action and the role of operational activities in promoting, in particular, capacity-building and resource mobilization for enhancing the participation of women in development".

After the adoption of the decision on the themes, the representative of the United States said his delegation had joined in the consensus on the themes for the coordination segment and the high-level meeting of the operational activities segment, adding that they were important and would lead to productive discussion. However, he could not associate himself with the theme for the high-level segment. He believed that it was more appropriate to have that theme discussed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The Council did not have previous negotiating experience with such a complex subject, he added. The representative of Australia also expressed concern over the choice of the theme and questioned whether the Council's had capacity to deal with that subject.

The representative of Canada said other proposals for themes, such as information technology and its impact on development, had not been given

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serious consideration. The Council did not have the competence to make a "value-added" discourse on the theme agreed on for the high-level segment. There should be, however, a balanced discussion on the matter, and equal treatment of both North-South and South-South issues. In the Council's past sessions, the results of the discussions had had little impact. The Council should consider alternate ways of presenting the results of its discussions on those themes. The representatives of Japan and New Zealand associated themselves with Canada's statement.

Chile's representative expressed support for the theme of the high-level segment, adding that the entire package of themes represented a balance between economic and social issues. The representative of China also said the package of themes was balanced and had taken into consideration the views and concerns of all parties.

The representative of Cuba welcomed the flexibility of the various delegations, noting that his delegation had made concessions on the theme for the coordination segment. It was important that that theme, on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, be complementary to the work of the Working Group of the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). The priority for the Council must be the implementation of resolution 50/226, on further measures for the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields.

The representative of Egypt, expressing concern that some delegations had suggested that certain issues could not be discussed by the Council, said those delegations would like to restrict the Council's mandate. Some delegations had taken such a position on the proposal of the "Group of 77" developing countries to take up the theme of migration and employment, he noted. There should be a spirit of cooperation in the discussion of themes, and no attempt to try to impose or limit the work of the Council, he stressed.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the high-level segment was intended to identify key elements in the area of international and environmental cooperation that had some importance to the world community. The Council was in a good position to identify those issues. His delegation would have supported a second theme for the coordination segment and it hoped that adopting only one theme would not set a precedent for future years. There was a need to have a balance between economic and social themes in that segment, he said.

Responding to the representative of Egypt, the representative of the United States said the Council had a very broad mandate to review economic and social affairs affecting the international community. There was, however, limited time and resources to devote to its work. New subject matters should

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be taken up sparingly, in consultation with the subsidiary bodies. His delegation objected to the idea that the first time the Council was going to take an issue, it would jump right into a ministerial consideration of the subject.

In other action this morning, the Council decided to continue its consideration of the implementation of the General Assembly resolution on further measures for the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic and social fields. By other terms of that decision (document E/1997/L.63), it also decided to: convene informal consultations in March and May/June 1998 to continue the review of subsidiary bodies as mandated by that text and subsequent resolutions; take into account in that process the relevant parts of the resolutions relating to the reform of the United Nations adopted by the Assembly's fifty-second session; and submit a report on the matter to the Council for consideration at its 1998 substantive session.

In addition, in an oral amendment to the last paragraph of the draft decision, the Council decided to request the Secretary-General to brief delegations on relevant issues considered at the 1997 second regular session of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) during its organizational session, in February 1998.

Also this morning, the Council decided to postpone consideration of a draft decision concerning proclamation of international years (document E/1997/L.32/Rev.2). Introduced by the Russian Federation, that text would have the Council recommend that the Assembly at its next resumed session decide that henceforth the issue of the proclamation of international years should be considered directly by the Assembly. In that regard, paragraph 12 of the guidelines for international years and anniversaries would be deleted. According to that paragraph of the guidelines, all proposals for international years or anniversaries must first be submitted to the Economic and Social Council, which would then make a recommendation to the General Assembly.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he regretted that a decision could not be taken that would rationalize the work of the Council. He welcomed the proposal for more informal consultations on the matter. The representative of the Philippines said the Council had to take account of the ramifications of the decision. Although the proposal appeared simple, it had to be considered in light of the Council's functions. It was critical to have a filtering process to facilitate decisions by the Assembly. The proposal should be carefully thought through before action was taken, particularly in the context of the Organization's reform process.

The Council also decided to postpone consideration of recommendations contained in the report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural

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Rights at its sixteenth session, held from 28 April to 16 May (documents E/1997/L.23 and Add.2 and E/1997/L.62).

Referring to the elections held at the Council's last meeting on Tuesday 16 December, the Secretary of the Council said there was an inadvertent error in the elections for the Programme Coordination Board of the United Nations Joint and Co-Sponsored Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The Secretariat had failed to notice that Uganda was already a member of the Board, and should not have been elected. In light of that statement, the representative of Algeria said his country would submit its candidacy to the Board, which he had withdrawn after Uganda was elected.

The Council also decided to postpone a decision on dates for a joint meeting in 1998 between its members and policy makers attending a meeting of the Bretton Woods institutions in April.

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For information media. Not an official record.