The speaker Ms. Marva Corley gave us an interesting briefing before the lunch break, to which all delegations listened attentively. Ms. Corley focused her briefing mainly on the role of the UN in economic development, and a small part about her work.
She is an Economic Affairs Officer in the Development Policy and Analysis Division at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Division is composed of three units: 1. The Development Strategy and Policy Analysis Unit (DSP): This unit creates studies and makes reports to the Economic and Social Council. 2. The Committee for Development Policy (CDP): Acting as the secretariat, the committee deals with cross-sectoral issues. It is most known by the public for the reason that it determines the list of Least Developed Countries. 3. The Global Economic Monitoring Unit (GEM): The unit monitors and analyzes economic trends throughout the world. One of the most important analyses is commodities analysis. Recently, “the prices of basic staples are at records high.” Ms. Corley read out from the handout she gave us. Food Riots have erupted and hunger has its new face. More and more people worldwide are falling below the poverty line. This food crisis tolled the alarming bell. World Bank has now estimated that, 33 countries are under the threat of political and social turmoil due to the food crisis in this century. The link between economic development and security has its bloody and vivid examples.
When asked what aspects of United Nations’ (UN) mandate comprise the biggest share of its resources management, the answer might to some be quite surprising. If the answer you have in mind is “peace and security”, you’re not alone. However, this is the wrong notion. The speaker, Ms. Corley, laughed while telling us that she did not know it herself before working inside the UN. In fact, the majority of the UN’s resources are devoted to economic and social development, a mandate that is clearly indicated in the Charter. E.g., we could see it from its Preamble: “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” or Article 1 (3): “To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character…”
But then, we asked, in the first place, why does the UN want to get involved in economic and social development and make it the actual part of its mandate? To answer this question, Ms. Corley pointed out that we should see it from a collective point of view: Development is a pillar or a fundamental precondition to peace and security. Because economic development has its spill-over effects, there are issues so pressing and global, that what happens in one country influences the rest of the world -- refugees, HIV, and organized crime are just some examples of issues that can not be solved from a single local perspective. Furthermore, when we look deep into the root causes of many conflicts, they are often found in terms of disparity- disparity in income, in access to services and so on. Therefore, there should be a collective approach to it. Hence, Article 1 (4) writes out that the UN is “to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”
Some characteristics of the UN that allow it to become the biggest social and economic development agency are 1. The UN as a global organization has a wide network in terms of agencies and Member States. 2. The notion of impartiality of the UN. It has a commitment to all people in the world, different from most of agencies that have their own interest to guard. The commitment comes from all countries, and takes everyone’s voice into consideration.
Coming to the practical side, how is the economic and social developmental work of the UN carried out? First it starts out quite generally with the General Assembly in September, where states raise particular issues of concern. Certain issues are passed on to its Second Committee, also known as The Economic and Financial Committee and the Third Committee, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. Some regional issues would be passed on to regional commissions, based at the ECOSOC. These issues are then debated by the ECOSOC who will deliberate which issues should be highlighted.
The priority issues nowadays are the Millennium Development Goals. Recently, the soaring food price has become a great challenge to the goal “to reduce the proportion of hunger by half by 2015”. It is currently the leading issue.