Second Committee of the 52nd General Assembly
23.01.2002 / 21:03
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Talking points of Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Representative of the Czech Republic to the Second (Economic and Financial) Committee of the General Assembly, Report of ECOSOC
New York, November 11, 1997
Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Representative of the Czech Republic to the Second (Economic and Financial) Committee of the General Assembly, in the General Debate of the Committee
New York, October 14, 1997
Talking points of Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Representative of the Czech Republic to the Second (Economic and Financial) Committee of the General Assembly, agenda item 12 - Report of ECOSOC
Report about the activities and achievements of the Ad-hoc Open-ended Working Group on Informatics was provided in the statement of H.E. Amb. Ahmad Kamal. I guess that we all can agree that during the last two years the level of IT-based assistance to delegations in New York has improved tremendously. I do not speak about the "classical" usage of mainframe computers for accounting, HR management, budgeting etc. These applications are virtually invisible and unattainable for the daily workload of delegations. I do speak about the IT support and assistance provided to delegations here in New York and throughout the World in the form of INTERNET- based information systems accessible from our missions or homes. Three years ago, it was my dream to sit in front of my computer and to browse through the UN documents and press releases on the UN web sites. It is a reality today! We should appreciate effort of all those who contributed to it - personally Amb. Kamal, the working group headed by him and all staff and experts from UNDP and UN secretariats, including specialized agencies and regional economic commissions etc., who were trying to meet requirements and proposals of the working group. They all have done a good job and they deserve our sincere appreciation.
There are two intertwined principal components of the IT revolution - technology and people. Perhaps we should reconsider budgetary and resource allocation priorities of the UN system not because development of IT technology is fascinating, but just to cope with the pace of technology development. This is true for the UN headquarters and many times more true for millions and millions people who cannot benefit from the advancement of IT facilities. Naturally the UN system cannot finance massive deployment of computers and IT facilities in all continents. But the UN should be among the pioneers spearheading the IT revolution.
IT technology is beautiful, it is important, IT technology is marvelous, but it is dead matter only without human mind using it, manipulating it, programming it, benefiting from it. There is much talk about human resources training, about education, about knowledge-based society, about the importance of investment in human resources etc. I am not convinced that the UN system is doing its utmost in this sphere. The UN should devote much more time and effort and appropriate resources to indicate how to manage full-scale adoption of IT capabilities and potentials.
If the two components of IT revolution, i.e. technology and people, are equal in their importance, then the human component is definitely "more equal". We have to devote much more energy, time and appropriate resources not only to hardware, but also to development of human resources, to education and training of both UN secretariat staff and possibly also experts from the missions. It is a primordial demand and prerequisite for our effort to harness the IT technology potentials. We are bound to fail with the IT-related effort if we do not do it. Education of educators is a very old idea, but still fully valid and its importance cannot be overstated.
The Ad-hoc Working Group on Informatics of ECOSOC was charged to design an overall information management strategy by the ECOSOC resolution L.28 this July. It is a huge task! It will require a lot of work and maximum effort from all those involved in it. In view of this task, the working group on informatics should perhaps be formally upgraded into higher-level status. In any case, its task will require also to get full support from the secretariat. It was very satisfactory to learn about the personal support of Secretary General to the IT-related activities of the working group and the UN bodies in general. As far as the institutional support is concerned, appointment of a single person as Chief Information Officer in charge of coordination of the development effort is worth of serious consideration if we are to learn something from the experience of a private sector.
The first steps in bringing the personal IT technology close to the daily workload of delegations have been accomplished. However, much remains to be done in nearest future. Huge, tremendous effort should be exercised to coordinate development of new IT projects at UN secretariat. There are two principal reasons for it:
much better integration of all information resources of all UN
bodies will result in much better information saturation of all
users interested in or benefiting from the work of UN system.
much higher cost/benefit efficiency of all investments in human resources and technology.
Each of this reasons should justify appropriate organizational and budgetary changes, a synergy of both reasons cannot be overstated.
At present the IT systems at UN facilitate access to documents through INTERNET. We have better access to the electronic form of the reports of Secretary General, to resolutions, to press releases etc. Further improvement is urgently needed as regards posting all documents on UN web sites immediately at the moment of their adoption or finalizing. However, all these facilities enable only stand-alone operation or single-person usage and if communication is in place, than only as electronic version of classical mailing services. But the UN system is the best possible example of group collaboration when many people collaborate on development of a document, e.g. when trying to reach a consensus on a draft resolution. Such a group can be supported even by small network of PC computers and suitable groupware programmes already on the market. Other tools also facilitate automatic processing and re-processing of documents making further manipulation, extracting, synthesis, possibly also translation etc. Videoconferencing through INTERNET network with full computerized support for information processing has outreached laboratory tests.
I feel truly privileged to have witnessed such important development here at UN. I hope to see the above mentioned bold steps to be implemented as soon as possible.
Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Representative of the Czech Republic to the Second (Economic and Financial) Committee of the General Assembly, in the General Debate of the Committee
Let me at the very beginning congratulate you and other members of the bureau on your having been elected to the chair. Personally I consider it a sign of blessing for our work because of your experience and noble style of chairing the negotiations. We wish you good luck and you may rest assured that my delegation will do its utmost for the success of our deliberations.
I would like to associate myself and support fully the statement of the European Union, which was delivered yesterday by the delegation of Luxemburg. Let me add some additional comments.
Every autumn, international community is gathering here in New York to discuss issues of global interest. In the Second Committee we have more or less stable agenda. The agenda items in front of us have their history and presumably also their future, but these or similar agenda items are also taken up by ECOSOC and some other fora. Sometimes it even looks that inertia is the main driving force behind them: some of them are just passed over from one session to another with little, if any, real progress. This has already proved to be non-sustainable and we welcome and support the effort to organize our agenda more rationally, to streamline it so as to make our deliberations more efficient. The Czech Republic is willing to take active part in the reform process implementation.
Nevertheless, our preoccupation with reform should not distract our attention from the substance. We may have difficulties with identifying or adopting more sophisticated procedures and rules for our deliberations, we may struggle for the best ever model of how to structure our meetings and consultative bodies, but we may not lose sight of the real world and its burning problems. The U.N. is primarily about the substance - in solution-focussed, unbiased, efficient, sober, rational way. The substance of UN is not in a number of resolutions adopted year by year, it is not in using "agreed language" year by year in recurring resolutions, in repeated agenda items, which due to its nature require substantially longer time to implement the previously adopted resolution. We recorded with great satisfaction that also this aspect of our work in the Second Committee shows significant improvements, which fact should be a strong impetus for our furthering the effort of predecessors.
Positive achievements of international development effort are hampered by lasting or even growing political and security problems which often arise from political instability and economically illogical measures. The results are hardly surprising and a threat of marginalization in the global economic environment is one of them. In our view, the challenge posed by the post- cold-war situation and the newly differentiating world is not effectively taken up so far by the world organizations - vis-a-vis other international actors. The issue is how to strengthen the overall confidence in the UN, in particular confidence in its ability to be a respected force in economic and social area, and how to reaffirm its global policy guidance.
The interest of my country, the Czech Republic, in the global issues tackled by ECOSOC or the Second Committee is not self-serving. As one of the countries undergoing rapid transition of political and economic environment, the Czech Republic is trying to define and affirm its new position and new role in the global setting. The economic environment of our country is open and liberal. The process of the transition has been acknowledged also by accepting the Czech Republic as member of OECD in 1995 as well as in deepening of cooperation with the EU.
We consider quite natural that our country, while overcoming the transition period problems, is gradually getting ready to assume its share of responsibility for tackling global social and economic problems of the world. Currently our assistance share is rather modest and it is mainly directed to humanitarian and relief operations. We pay growing attention to other areas of probable and more systematic development assistance. To this end, the concept of development assistance has been integrated into our foreign policy in order to join the international efforts to combat the most severe problems as well as to promote our cooperation with developing countries.
Mr. President, let me touch two issues of our great concern.
The key role in promoting the international cooperation in the economic and social sphere is assigned to the Economic and Social Council by the UN Charter. Over last decades, vis-a-vis the changing world and all the new challenges, ECOSOC faced increasing problems to fulfill its mandate. This resulted in various reform attempts, among which the measures contained in the GA resolution 50/227 have been playing the most important and urgent role.
The Czech Republic was always supportive to this effort and stressed the need of better coordination, effectiveness and streamlines of ECOSOC structure and activities. During our presidency in ECOSOC in this year we have been striving to build a "new ECOSOC". We felt the promising signals of this "new ECOSOC" during the substantive session in July. We expect that overall assessment of the ECOSOC substantive session will be a part of another agenda item. Nevertheless it is our opinion that the three segments (i.e., high-level, coordination and operational activities) contributed to the good record of this year's session of ECOSOC. The high-level segment with the participation of a number of ministers and senior Government officials has proved increasing interest of member states in targeted discussion. Regrettably, the negotiation of the Agreed Conclusions of the HL segment requested by far more effort and time that we expected. The informal policy dialogue with heads of the UN Funds and Programmes has also demonstrated the viability of ECOSOC as platform for useful and fruitful exchange of views.
Positive assessment of the substantive session of ECOSOC is nowadays to be translated into further work to make the ECOSOC agenda more compact and rational along the lines of GA resolution 50/227. Let me in this moment quote from the opening statement of the current President of the ECOSOC ambassador V. Galuska this Summer: "I would like to appeal to all - let us not waste time with empty speeches and senseless arguing, let us focus strictly on the basic problems we are supposed to solve here. Let us abandon any attempt to overwhelm one another with richness of synonyms and antonyms in any of our working languages when negotiating any resolution or decision. Even complex problems can be described and solved in simple, straightforward language - obviously, if there is a will to do so".
The Czech Republic will welcome further steps geared at implementing GA resolution 50/227, primarily simplification and streamlining of structure of subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC. We strongly believe that the reform package of Secretary General in its relevant parts goes in this direction and we shall support its full implementation.
2. Environment and Sustainable Development
The area of environment protection and sustainable development rightly belongs to the most dynamic spheres of international global cooperation. The Czech Republic welcomes and supports this trend. We have ample experience with overcoming the burdening environmental legacy of the past. We are introducing strict environmental standards, which are preconditions to our envisaged admission to the European Union. We will be happy to share with interested countries our experience with the legacy of environmental damage - possibly also within the framework of development assistance programmes and activities, which we have introduced recently.
The Czech Republic highly appreciates the activities of the UN and many specialized international agencies and bodies in the area of environment protection and sustainable development. In this connection the key roles were assigned to UNEP and CSD. We sincerely hope that UNEP will implement its mandate with new vigour.
The UNCED follow-up activities have got a palpable boost through the UNGASS process. The outputs of UNGASS itself, however, cannot be assessed unequivocally. On one hand, it is positive that sustainable development is gaining support by governments and international organizations. This support is amply complemented by the activities of NGOs, local authorities, business communities etc. On the other hand, however, it became apparent during UNGASS and its preparatory period, that regrettably not all relevant partners are ready and willing to make substantive, courageous and brave steps to make the sustainable development concepts the reality of near future, if not right now. We also regret that some of the initiatives of the European Union, which we supported, have not been endorsed fully yet. We are confident that UNGASS and the whole sustainable development process must remain in our focus.
The UNGASS process also provided a proof of the viability and importance of the CSD commission. The commission succeeded in attracting representative participation not only from governments, but also from business, NGOs and other groups. Since the initial meeting of the Commission in 1993 we have seen systematic penetration of sustainable development concept into agendas of UN bodies and specialized agencies, as well as other multilateral organizations. Intensive working contacts among private sector, business community, industrial sphere and environment protection organizations and institutions are profoundly important in this context as well.
The Czech Republic is of the opinion that the mandate of the Commission is best fulfilled when the emphasis in its work is on "cross-sectoral issues", i.e. in areas where environmental concerns interfere with interests of other sectors. The issue of sustainable patterns of production and consumption increasingly proves to be an umbrella concept for addressing a number of relevant themes. In the area of capacity building, the promotion of education for sustainable development is of an utmost concern.
The Czech Republic acknowledges and welcomes the attempts to make the Commission one of the main foci of the reform efforts within the ECOSOC. With view of desirable increase of efficiency and streamlining of UN operations, and with view of minimizing unnecessary overlaps while capturing synergy of closely related activities, the Commission has a potential of gradually integrating various agendas like those dealing with natural resources, renewable energy issues and some other development-related concerns. We support intertwining the CSD, the Committee on New and Renewable Sources of Energy and Energy for Development, the Committee on Natural Resources, and the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
As for the relation and "division of labor" between the CSD commission and UNEP, the Czech Republic maintains that both the bodies have an important role to play in UNCED follow-up process. Their future cooperation will depend on a reform process within the UN. While CSD should strengthen its role as a policy making body and coordinator of "cross-sectoral issues" related to sustainable development, the focus of UNEP's work should rest within the "environmental sector".
Let me conclude that it is my firm hope that our work this year
will continue in the positive trends of the previous Second
Committee sessions and that it also will be our humble contribution
to the implementation of the reform package of Secretary General.
The Czech delegation will do its utmost towards this goal.