Beirut, 27 September 2012-- Ms. Rima Khalaf, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) chaired the second meeting of the Advisory Committee this year on 18 September 2012. For the first time, the meeting was attended by the Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia in Lebanon, Mr. Mohammed Fawzi Ballout; the Delegate of Libya, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Planning, Mr. Ali Ahmad El-Saleh; and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco Mr. Ali Omlil. Ms. Khalaf welcomed the accession of the three countries to ESCWA membership, following the approval of their requests by the United Nations Economic and Social Council at its regular session held in New York in July 2012. Ms. Khalaf clarified that the accession of the three countries to the Commission is considered "a big step towards achieving our aspirations to expand the membership of the Commission to include all Arab States, thus enabling ESCWA to become a true representative of all Arab people". In fact, expanding the Commission membership will enhance its ability to support Arab countries and respond to their needs in various areas of development. It will also help to improve its performance in supporting joint Arab actions and regional integration by enhancing coordination between the objectives, activities and projects of ESCWA, the League of Arab States and the United Nations programmes and Funds operating in Arab countries. The Commission will thus be working within a framework of partnership and integration.
Ms. Khalaf then highlighted the activities undertaken by ESCWA since the first meeting of the Advisory Committee, held in April 2012. Noting that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) was held in last June and brought together more than 100 heads of States and Governments and 40,000 participants, she said that, during the previous two years, ESCWA had actively supported its members with a view to ensuring an effective Arab participation in the negotiations of its Outcome Document. Twelve preparatory meetings were held prior to Rio+20 to cover all technical aspects of the Conference agenda, helping to elucidate a unified Arab stance adopted by the Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment in April 2012. Ms. Khalaf reaffirmed that ESCWA will follow up on the outcome of the Conference and support the commitment of its member countries through a series of activities to be implemented in the short term.
The Executive Secretary stressed the need to strengthen cooperation with international and regional organizations, namely the League of Arab States and the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Regarding the cooperation with the League of Arab States, ESCWA participated in the Eleventh Meeting on Cooperation that brought together United Nations organizations and the League of Arab States, in Vienna in July 2012. For the first time, the participants agreed on a list of joint and integrated projects. These projects deal with a variety of issues, including: an emergency programme for food security, building capacity in the field of renewable energy, establishing sustainable development indicators, formulating a regional plan of action to deal with the challenges of climate change, and preparing a Millennium Development Goals progress report. Ms. Khalaf then announced that the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will be organized in Cairo for the first time, in cooperation with the League of Arab States.
Ms. Khalaf said that ESCWA would cooperate with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to organize the Regional Ministerial Meeting for Western Asia (Amman, 26 November 2012). The meeting will discuss the issue of Innovation, Science and Technology for Sustainable Development and its outcome will shape the contribution of the region in the next session of the Annual Ministerial Review to be organized by the Economic and Social Council next July.
In reporting ongoing activities, Ms. Khalaf confirmed that the Commission is finalizing the preparations for the first ESCWA Economic Forum to be held in November. She also indicated that ESCWA is preparing for the next sessions of the Committee on Statistics and the Committee on Energy in addition to the regular meetings of the Technical Committee.
In conclusion, Ms. Khalaf confirmed that ESCWA is currently preparing its programme of work for the biennium 2014-2015, which will be presented to ESCWA Technical Committee by the end of November 2012. She expressed her hope that the programme will be more responsive to the aspirations of member countries, and more centered on ways to support equitable and sustainable growth, promote regional integration, establish the principles of good governance and foster the ability to face urgent challenges.
ESCWA Advisory Committee was established on 18 May 1989, and comprises the ambassadors of member countries in the host country (Lebanon), and a senior official from the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In its role as a link between the secretariat and member countries, the Committee holds regular meetings to discuss ESCWA programme of work and exchange views with the secretariat (Pictures from ESCWA archives).
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