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ECOSOC - Statements in 1998

Statement by the Czech Delegation at the ECOSOC 1998 Substantive SessionNew York, July 20, 1998 Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations at the Economic and Social Council Substantive Session of 1998, High-Level SegmentNew

  • Statement by the Czech Delegation at the ECOSOC 1998 Substantive Session
    New York, July 20, 1998

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations at the Economic and Social Council Substantive Session of 1998, High-Level Segment
    New York, July 8, 1998

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Martin Bursik, Minister of Environment of the Czech Republic at the High-Level Segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development
    New York, April 30, 1998

  • Statement of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, President of the Economic and Social Council
    New York, January 22, 1998

Statement by the Czech Delegation at the ECOSOC 1998 Substantive Session

Mr. President,

the Czech delegation associates itself with the statement on the subject delivered on behalf of the European Union. Nevertheless, as the Czech Republic is deeply involved in the regional cooperation in its wide sense, I would like to make, with your indulgence, a few remarks.

Mr. President,

a lot has been said about the process of globalization earlier during this session. A logical question arises when we come to Agenda Item 10 on Regional Cooperation: "Do we really need to pay special attention to regionalism in the contemporary globalized world?" The answer of my delegation is clear: "Yes, we do." And we need it even more than ever before.

Going back only one decade, the UN Economic Commission of Europe (ECE) was perhaps the only body which used to bridge two totally different economic systems in Europe. It provided a unique forum for keeping contacts, for preventing incompatibilities between those two divided parts of Europe to build up in many spheres of everyday life. Europe was not as divided as it could have been if not positively influenced by ECE activities oriented towards practical life of an ordinary European citizen.

We have been witnessing a real historical change since then. ECE is still there, because it has been able to adapt itself to new circumstances, it proved to be an effective tool to pursue pan- European processes with their trans-Atlantic dimension and, what is of the utmost importance today, ECE helps to bridge the lack of local capacities with the magnitude of global challenges through its active regionalism. Of course, ECE has to serve primarily the interests of its member-states to integrate their economies into the European economy. That concerns mostly the economies in transition. We are however convinced that ECE is well equipped to facilitate also the integration of those economies in the global economy. I am sure, every UN regional commission provides similar service to its member-states, regional policies thus playing a role of "good offices" to make full use of benefits offered by globalization possible.

That brings me to the question of inter-regional cooperation. We fully support the intention of the UN Secretary-General to strengthen, under the UN reform process, the cooperation among UN regional commissions in order to contribute to better overall performance of the UN at the global level. The regions are different, the countries within regions may differ even more, but the issues to be addressed are sometimes common. We therefore think that a considerable part of experience of any of the UN regional commissions has its global validity. Experience and already proven solutions of one regional commission should be taken over by other regional commissions with only minor adjustments. Such an approach can not only prevent the repetition of mistakes but it may also bring about considerable resource savings, not to mention its compliance with the global trends. The budgetary allocations within the UN regular budget could then be changed respectively and devoted to other purposes. Why do we need to re-invent the wheel when somebody else has already been using it to his (or her) entire satisfaction?

Similar view applies to cooperation of the UN regional commissions with the UN "global bodies". Most of those "global bodies" have got what is usually called a regional dimension of their activities. From time to time we see some sort of jealousy between the "global UN bodies" and the UN regional commissions. They tend to argue who does what better or who started with what earlier. Who wins? The one with more budgetary resources - often at the expense of good activities which, no matter where they have been pursued up to now, come to an end...

Such a practice must be stopped immediately. What should really matter are the results of the UN activities and their practical and measurable impact on our life. A win-win strategy should take the lead. We, the member-states, have the primery responsibility for the distribution of labour among different UN entities as well as for appropriate budgetary allocations. We have to be consistent in what we require from whom. Therefore, we have to coordinate first among ourselves on the basis of the best knowledge of the work and comparative advantages of any UN body in order to secure effective coordination among those bodies. The UN bodies can not work in harmony if we, the member-states, put on them sometimes contradictory tasks. Fortunately, we have a precious integrating platform at our disposal, namely the final documents of nine global conferences and summits.

Mr. President,

to some extent, almost the same difficulties are encountered in the cooperation between the UN and non-UN entities at the regional level. Disregarding the fact, these entities are always composed by more or less equal set of countries and they do often similar things, there is a big gap between their position, political value, financial viability etc. Such a gap is either given by their legal status, thus it is well founded, or it may also be artificial, influenced by, e.g., ill-publicity, general overlook, historical prejudice, therefore not well founded. Let me repeat once again: Important are the results of international activities, their effectiveness and positive impact, no matter to whose mandate, whether the UN or non-UN, their inscribe. My delegation is of the opinion that ECOSOC represents an irreplaceable forum which has already been doing a great job in coordination among different actors on the global scene. ECOSOC is perhaps well tailored to do it even better if capable to involve in dialogue more inter-governmental global and regional entities as well as private partners.

At the regional level, the UN ECE did that quite some time ago. Nowadays, such a forward- looking policy brings about its results. For example, ECE, together with OECD and EU/EUROSTAT apply integrated programming and reporting in statistical activities, about 60% of ECE activities in the sphere of chemical industry are financed from private sources, ECE succeeded in establishing a permanent dialogue with the general public (including NGOs), in the area of environmental protection, where a new convention on public participation has been signed recently in Aarhus (Denmark). Representatives of the most important automotive industry countries, including Japan as an ECE non-member-state, worked out and adopted within ECE an international agreement for the development of global technical regulations for motor vehicles which will become not only regional but truly global norms-setting instrument in technical standardization. I quoted only some success stories for the ECE recent past.

Mr. President,

what I have just said about the UN ECE, what demands are put on it by its member-states and what it really does in practice, all that is in line with the UN reform process. Certainly, there is always room for improvement. Decentralization represents one important point of the reform. On the one hand, ECE has undretaken considerable endeavours to decentralize its activities, to augment the authority and accountability of its principal subsidiary bodies. On the other hand, these measures have so far not been accompanied by the transfer of more authority from the UN New York Headquarters to the UN ECE Secretariat in Geneva. To fill in one vacant post within the ECE Secretariat still takes more than a year, the authority of ECE in financial and personnel matters is very limited, there are rigid formal rules and regulations (including legal ones) nobody needs today but ECE has to comply with etc. Having in mind that there in no freeze at the moment, financial situation of the UN has improved and the UN reform has progressed, my delegation can hardly accept such insufficiencies.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by expressing a strong believe of the Czech delegation that the conditions for the work of the UN regional commissions will soon be attributed due attention in further steps of the UN reform.

Thank you for your attention.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations at the Economic and Social Council Substantive Session of 1998, High-Level Segment

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me congratulate and thank the Secretary-General, together with the heads of UNCTAD and WTO, for their joint effort to produce the comprehensive report before us. This is a sign of good inter-agency cooperation, an example on how effective and useful it can be in practice. I wish there were more examples like this worth following. At the same time, I would like to associate with the statement on the subject delivered by H.E. Sir Leon Brittan on behalf of the European Union on Monday 6 July 1998.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic is a country with traditionally low tariff barriers. Implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements and Decisions brings about further reduction of trade barriers. I would dare say that the Czech Republic, as an active member of WTO, pursuing an open market policy, has already reached what is usually called "an open market". In parallel to this, special attention is paid to our trade relations with the most vulnerable group of countries: in the context of the Plan of Action for the Least Developed Countries adopted at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore, the Czech Republic provides duty-free treatment to all LDCs' products entering the Czech market.

Opening of our internal market itself proved to be beneficial, with an immediate effect at least for the Czech consumers. Increased competition has positively influenced prices of certain commodities, primarly consumer durables. But it also meant new competition for domestic producers, even though they do not always perceive such a change in their still monopoly position as a positive turn. Sooner or later they will conclude or will have to conclude that in the process of globalization international competition becomes inevitable. You either adapt yourself to it or shut down your business. The more your domestic market opens to the world, the more it represents a part of the global market and your national economy becomes integrated into the world economy,

integration being one of the most important prerequisites for further economic and social development of the whole society.

Unfortunately it is not as simple as that. Lessons learned by the Czech Republic in the transition period from a centrally planned to a market economy show how threatening such a simplification could be. For many domestic producers, including those producing quality goods comparable with goods of foreign origin, a desired adjustment without prior preparation of adequate conditions seemed impossible. The problem today consists in the following: competitiveness is no longer only in the quality of product and its price, as trade is no longer exclusively selling and buying things in a narrow sense. Competitiveness now comprises a lot of interlinked factors, starting with "good production practices" and ending with export financing, should the goods be exported. Yet placing a product on the domestic market requires a great deal of marketing. Playing on comparative advantages, most of them - if not provided by nature are limited in time and do not guarantee a success in the long-run. Secured market access itself does not provide for real exports and export revenues.

To foster competitiveness at large and consequently make use of liberalization, effective interaction among enterprises, trade and finance institutions, and government bodies, as well as sound government policies, are needed. Institutional building has to focus not only on the creation of respective institutions, but also on their proper functioning (i. e. the fact institutions are in place does not mean they work as they should.) Human resource development, a basic level of social equity and balanced distribution of benefits must be added to widely recognized attributes of a sound international exchange, such as political and macroeconomic stability, including transparent monetary and fiscal policy. It is true that competitiveness in the contemporary world is a more crucial and complex issue than it has ever been before. Access to information on norms, standards and other requirements applicable to the movement of goods, a switch from traditional to electronic means of servicing trade transactions, etc. are critical from the point of view of "supply responsiveness". Put simply, the full use of new market opportunities allows for the profiting from the process of globalization.

Mr. President,

When we spoke about globalization at the ECOSOC Substantive Session in Geneva last summer, we noted, among other characteristic features, a relatively high degree of coherence of this process. Isolated actions of the government of a single country or a small group of countries are insufficient to cope with the overwhelming impact of globalization. It is therefore vital to give global responses to universal challenges. Active multilateralism provides instruments for those global responses. In the sphere of international trade, several UN bodies and other International Organizations (non-UN) have been doing a good job. I would like to give extra tribute to some of those which were not quoted during our previous debates, e. g.: Economic Commission for Europe in the sphere of trade facilitation (UN EDIFACT) and technical standardization, International Telecommunication Union, INTELSAT and Inmarsat in the area of basic and space telecommunications, World Tourism Organization in tourism development as an important source of revenues of many developing countries. Paradoxically there is much to be desired in the domain of international trade. The term "universal" is still far from being used in the context of the multilateral trading system, unless internationally agreed rules and procedures are extended to all countries. Those countries which stay outside the multilateral trading system, be they developing or "in transition", need to be assisted by the International Community in their capacity building aimed at the right preparedness for global challenges.

Playing with the words "right preparedness" I have already mentioned domestic institutions, sound economic environment and other prerequisites making home product competitive enough, both on the domestic and the world markets. Premature opening of ones domestic market, even if accompanied by adequate market access provided by other actors on the world market, does not automatically secure you the position of "a partner" in the international trade exchange. There is even more to it: hand by hand with liberalization of trade goes liberalization of services. One of the lessons learned in the transition period clearly demonstrates that the introduction of liberal trade policies, unless accompanied by similar level of liberal policies in services, negatively influences competitiveness of domestic production, thus the competitiveness of goods and, consequently, the capacity of a given country to fill in the space opened by market access.

Mr. President,

I tackled the question of competitiveness as one side of market access. Let me finish by touching briefly upon the other side of the coin, the side which is often disregarded but growing in its topicality: absorption or, if you wish, demand capacity of markets. Should we reach the point of saturation, better market access would not help much. Under the circumstances, market forces alone would not enable sustainable development to progress. We have already experienced that: the recent financial crisis is perhaps to some extent rooted in a limited capacity of markets to absorb more... Volatility in international finance is more and more transmitted to international trade and even to "international production". To go further we need active incentives to overcome deficiencies on the demand side. I do not speak about traditional deficiencies like, a lack of purchasing power. I address the problem of psychological barriers, of limits for human expectations, uncertainties as to the future perspectives of an individual, etc. A workable set of tools, for those active demand incentives, is not yet at hand. Nevertheless, this is an issue which deserves the attention of International Institutions. I am of the opinion that ECOSOC is an appropriate forum to elaborate further on this theme and it could bring a considerable contribution to the debate we will no doubt be engaged in and confronted with in the future.

Thank you for your attention.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Martin Bursik, Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic at the High-Level Segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Mr. Chairman,

Yesterday, the Czech Republic associated itself with the statement of the EU by the distinguished representative of the UK, His Excellency Minister M. Meatcher, and I am not going to repeat what has been stated therein. On top of what the EU has said, I would like to make just few remarks:

Generally, my country - now negotiating for a full membership in the EU - appreciates the active (and indeed leading) role the EU plays in the global debate on sustainable development and seeks to be as supportive of these efforts as possible. Not only that we seek to reflect relevant stimuli of the Rio follow-up into our domestic policies and legislation, but we are also taking steps to play more active part in the global process of promoting sustainable development. As a member of OECD the Czech Republic gradually changes its status from a recipient to a donor country. We already launched an official development aid programme, and this will hopefully be more and more inspired by ideal and principles we are discussing here. So far, our contribution to the international development has been only a modest one, but there is potential to be mobilized in this respect, i.e. a relatively high level of technical education and expertise, and we are increasingly trying to engage especially in transferring knowledge, exchanging experts, promoting communication among people, and sharing experience. As a concrete example, the Czech Republic is funding a UNIDO project to promote cleaner production in Croatia.

With regard to the foci of this CSD session, let me stress the importance of involving industry and private sector into our debate, and I think that we made some progress in this area. It is absolutely crucial for the viability of the sustainable development process. The Czech Republic already has some tradition in cooperating with industrial sector and it is worth noting that the last annual meeting of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development took place in our capital - Prague. As to the freshwater management, we feel that this is one of the most fundamental, and the most sensitive, issues in front of us. We would like to see a far reaching agreement paving the way for universal access to drinking water to be endorsed by the end of this week.

In addition, there is one major item which is not directly on our agenda but which is penetrating all our deliberations: it is the FCCC process in general and the Kyoto Protocol in particular. My country was among those Annex I countries which accepted without hesitation the 8% commitment. Now we are getting ready to sign and also to ratify the Protocol and we see no obstacles to comply fully with our commitment. In addition, we are making preparations to use some of the emission reduction within the framework of the Joint Implementation or any other internationally agreed scheme. Therefore we look forward to the international consensus on these issues to be reached at 4th Conference of Parties in Buenos Aires later this year.

Mr. Chairman,

The Czech Republic is proud that it has been contributing to the successful work of CSD since its establishment in 1993. Let me recall the Intersessional Workshop on Financial Instruments in support of CSD 1995 and the International Workshop on Education on Sustainable Development that helped to formulate the far-reaching workprogram on education adopted by CSD 1996. Early this year we have hosted another important event namely the Fourth International Workshop on Indicators of Sustainable Development. The meeting was supported by the European Commission. The Report of this workshop was distributed to all delegations yesterday. We hope very much that the outcomes of the workshop mark an important step in the implementation of the CSD Workprogram on Indicators and especially in their testing by more than twenty volunteering countries. We regard the sustainability indicators as one of the most essential tools of realistic implementation of sustainable development and fully support their further development and extensive use within reporting to CSD.

In the spirit of our past activities within the framework of the CSD let me, Mr. Chairman, announce today yet another initiative of the Czech Republic. We are prepared to host a Workshop on Sustainable Energy Policy. This workshop is supposed to support the discussion on energy issues that will take place at the ninth Session of CSD.

Thank you.

Statement of H.E. Dr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, President of the Economic and Social Council

Distinguished Delegates, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

merely a couple of months ago I was honoured by having been elected as president of the Economic and Social Council and it seems to be only a few days ago when we concluded our substantive session in Geneva.

In the past year we succeeded in introducing some important changes in the pattern of the ECOSOC's life and work. For the first time the substantive session lasted only four weeks. The high level segment was finalized by adopting the agreed conclusions. The agenda and structure of the substantive session was streamlined and clustered so as to facilitate the four-week duration of the substantive session. Consultations on the reform of ECOSOC subsidiary machinery started as it was requested by the resolution 50/227 and will continue further. When I mention some of the facts that can be marked as a success, I would like to underline at the same time that there still is some "unfinished business" concerning the ECOSOC being more relevant to the contemporary world and the implementing of needed reform quickly and effectively.

Just in the middle of our deliberation in Geneva, Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan introduced the Track II proposals of the UN system reform, of which the reform in economic and social sphere including the operational activities is an important component. The GA adopted a resolution endorsing some of the changes proposed in the Track II. It is up to the member states of the ECOSOC to continue in furthering the restructuring and reform processes in order to achieve tangible results. We feel the urgency of swift progress in it and let us hope that we all will have enough courage to go quickly towards well-structured, well-functioning and adequately financed UN organization.

Beside the reform of UN machinery in the economic and social sphere, there is one very urgent factor profoundly influencing the efficiency of the UN system and the operational activities - financial resources for development. There is an ongoing process of consultations focussed on this issue and we all should do our best to find better and comprehensive solution to relative scarcity of resources. Innovative ideas are mostly welcome because in spite of all efforts in the past, the world is still far from solving the burning issues of environment protection, poverty elimination, sustainable development etc. This year we have to go through the triannual policy review and we should not be shy to make a significant step forward in increasing the efficiency of operational activities.

When speaking about all the negotiations in front of us, let me make a personal remark. There is a phenomenon in our pattern of work which troubles me a lot and which should be eliminated. It is a frequent propensity to slip from rational, sober and efficient negotiation focussed on the substantive matters into the "old-fashioned" and counter-productive "battles in the fortified trenches of agreed language". I am very confident that even complex problems and issues can and should be described and solved in simple, straightforward manner and language. Life is not in the heaps of papers of agreed language, but in efficient actions aimed at solving the real troubles of real people, real families and their children.

Distinguished delegates,

Let me thank my distinguished colleagues on the ECOSOC bureau - Amb. Somavia, Amb. Chowdhury, Amb. Henze and Amb. Abibi. Their experience, insight and "feeling" for the situation helped to push things forward in difficult moments of our deliberation. I am especially grateful to Amb. Chowdhury for his exceptional enthusiasm and hard work in Geneva. I am very grateful to all colleagues from the ECOSOC secretariat - Mr. Desai, Ms. Kelly and Mr. Khan to name only a few. Without their personal commitment and extensive assistance we could not have achieved so much. Last but not least, I would like to thank you all, distinguished delegates, who participated in any kind of deliberations of the council. It was a pleasure to work with you and an opportunity to learn from you and I am grateful for it.

Distinguished delegates,

let me wish on behalf of the outgoing bureau all the best and a lot of success to the future bureau and its president.

It was demanding but rewarding to preside the ECOSOC and I feel a bit nostalgic at the moment of quitting, even though my delegation will continue to work as a member state of the council. In the end I wish you all the best in achieving your goals both in professional and in private life.

Thank you.