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        Economic and Social Council
16 May 2003

Original: English

Substantive session of 2003
Geneva, 30 June-25 July 2003
Item 10 of the provisional agenda*
Regional cooperation

Regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields

Report of the Secretary-General

The present report updates the Economic and Social Council on actions undertaken by the regional commissions during the period under review with respect to the guidance given in annex III to Council resolution 1998/46 of 31 July 1998 on their contributions and relevance to the reform process of the United Nations. In addition, in response to Council decision 2003/205 of 28 January 2003, the report explores, in section III, the theme for the regional cooperation item at the Council’s substantive session of 2003, which is “Development dimensions of trade negotiations: a regional perspective”. The report also provides, in section IV, the report of the Executive Secretaries, which is submitted to the Council in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1823 (XVII) and Council resolution 1817 (LV).

The resolutions and decisions adopted by the regional commissions during the spring of 2003 that require action by the Council or are brought to its attention are contained in addendum 1 (E/2003/15/Add.1).

The summaries of the economic surveys of the five regions are provided to the Council for its consideration (see E/2003/16-20). The annual reports of the regional commissions are made available as background information as they address issues relevant to the matters that are the concern of the present report and its addendum. They are issued as supplements to the Official Records of the Economic and Social Council.

* E/2003/100.


1. In its resolution 1998/46, the Economic and Social Council recognized the dual role of the regional commissions as outposts of the United Nations and as its regional expression. In the same resolution, the Council provided guidance to the regional commissions with respect to their contributions and relevance to the reform process of the United Nations. Since the adoption of this resolution in 1998, the regional commissions have been reporting yearly to the Council on the measures taken in response to the guidance it provided. In addition to providing information on such measures, which member delegations of the Council have welcomed, the present report explores interregional cooperation in the context of the efforts of the regional commissions to build bridges towards understanding development requirements and for promoting regional and international cooperation. The report of the Executive Secretaries, which is contained in section IV, reflects their views on many of the issues addressed in the report.

I. The regional commissions as the regional expression of the United Nations

A. Significant substantive issues before the commissions’ sessions in 2003 or with which the commissions have been seized during the period under review

2. During the period under review, the regional commissions dealt with a wide spectrum of issues in the economic, social and political spheres. They ranged from regional development and regional integration in the context of the global economy, sustainable development, combating poverty and HIV/AIDS to the impact of conflicts on the economic and social development of the regions.


Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia


28. With respect to activities relating to Palestine, ESCWA continues to prepare an annual report on the “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”. At the session also, strengthening Arab regional cooperation, the role of ESCWA in coordinating regional activities of the United Nations and the designation of the commission’s sessions as pledging conferences were also discussed.

29. The session concluded with the adoption of a number of resolutions, in which the Commission recommended: the holding of an Arab international forum on the economic and social rehabilitation and reconstruction of Palestine; the establishment of a committee on women at ESCWA; the establishment of a United Nations Arab language centre at ESCWA; and the formulation of a regional plan of action for an information society.


II. The regional commissions as outposts of the United Nations


B. Cooperation with global entities: the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations Development Programme


3. Cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme


Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

128. ESCWA has developed joint cooperation in the area of social development with UNDP national offices in the Arab world. It also collaborated with UNDP in implementing a project on gender statistics and on poverty issues. ESCWA and UNDP, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon, agreed to organize a series of training workshops on reform and capacity-building of the social development services centres. Moreover, both ESCWA and UNDP Lebanon organized a workshop on water tariffication and groundwater legislation in Beirut, in January 2003 under the project on a national policy framework for water resources management in Lebanon.

129. ESCWA and UNDP Jordan are jointly implementing a project, “Towards integrated social development policies in Jordan”, aimed at supporting the development and enhancement of social policies in Jordan by surveying the Government’s approach to social policy formulation. They will also collaborate in developing human development profiles and strategy for the country. With UNDP Iraq, ESCWA is assisting in the preparation of the National Human Development Report.

130. A major regional project in the area of statistics, initiated in 1997 and primarily funded by UNDP, deals with the development of national gender statistics programmes in the Arab countries. The project is currently being administered in 12 Arab countries and engages a wide spectrum of producers and users of gender statistics.



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