The UN Regional Commissions
Category archives for: PRESS CENTRE

ESCWA Award for Gender Equality


The first ESCWA Award on Advancing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was presented by Ms. Rima Khalaf, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to three staff members. The award is delivered for the first time and constitutes a milestone for ESCWA, which is integrating gender perspectives in its plans, policies and programmes.

At a ceremony held on Friday 12 December 2014 at the United Nations House in Beirut, Ms. Khalaf handed out gold, silver and bronze awards to Ms. Nouhad Hayek of the Conference Services Section,  Ms. Neda Jaafar of the Statistics Division and Mr. Raydan Al-Saqqaf of the Social Development Division respectively, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to advancing gender equality and for playing an instrumental role in shaping the recent gender equality approach adopted by ESCWA.

Ms. Khalaf said that ESCWA must lead by example when working to shape regional policy in this priority area. She highlighted the pioneering role ESCWA is playing in piloting and implementing the strategic road map on gender equality and the empowerment of women, known as UN-SWAP (United Nations System-Wide Action Plan).

As ESCWA Senior UN-SWAP Coordinator, Ms. Mehrinaz El-Awady explained that the aim was to enable staff to better balance their work-life needs. She noted that this award was among several progressive steps recently taken, including the implementation of flexible working arrangements, mandatory gender training and systems to close the gender parity gap at ESCWA.

The Executive Secretaries of the five UN Regional Commissions issue joint call for action to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy

ece101114Published:04 November 2014

The Executive Secretaries of the five United Nations Regional Commissions are issuing a joint call for action to accelerate the transition to sustainable and fair energy, on the occasion of the 5th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development in Hammamet, Tunisia.

The Forum will discuss what practical actions are needed to attain the objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative of the UN Secretary-General through a regional agenda: ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030.

In their joint statement, the Executive Secretaries of the United Nations regional commissions affirm that the objectives of energy sustainability are attainable, and need not contradict more short-term considerations, if the world embarks on a determined, collective effort.

The joint statement is a call for action to their respective member States, highlighting in particular three key components:

  • Energy efficiency in most countries needs to improve more quickly
  • Renewable energy policies need to be redesigned
  • Equitable access to modern energy services requires mobilising adequate resources

Presenting the joint statement at the Forum, UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach said: “the Hammamet Declaration is a roadmap for achieving the objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative of the UN Secretary-General and for greening the energy sector and the economy as a whole. UNECE stands ready to assist its member States in developing their sustainable energy action plans and to work on developing standards for energy efficiency and renewables.”

The joint statement is available here.

Note to editors

The Fifth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development will be held in Hammamet, Tunisia, on 4-7 November 2014. The Forum is organized by the Government of Tunisia, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The five Regional Commissions come together at this Forum to address their common goals and commitments related to sustainable energy.

For more information, please visit:

UNECE Executive Secretary participates in conference on sustainable development in the Aral Sea Basin

Published:29 October 2014

The drying out of the Aral Sea is one of the gravest environmental catastrophes in human history. It has had severe implications for the environment and the climate in the region, as well as for the health and development of the more than 60 million people living in the Aral Sea Basin.

To strengthen the cooperation in the Aral Sea Basin in order to mitigate the consequences of this environmental catastrophe, UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach is visiting Urgench, Uzbekistan, on 28-29 October. He participates in the International Conference organised by the Uzbek Chairmanship of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS).

During the visit, Mr Bach signed a letter of intent with the chairman of the Executive Committee of IFAS to indicate continued UNECE support in areas such as water quality conservation, the safety of dams, the management and exchange of information on water resources and the environment.

“With this letter of intent, UNECE reconfirms its commitment to assist EC IFAS in finding solutions to the environmental and other challenges in the Aral Sea Basin, on the basis of international law and with respect to the interests of all countries of the region. Sustainable solutions to these acute problems can only be achieved with the full engagement of all the countries of Central Asia and through strong partnerships with international organizations and donors”, he said.

The multi-year Programme of IFAS is a regional action plan to alleviate the environmental and socio-economic consequences of the Aral Sea disaster and to facilitate progress towards integrated water resources management and sustainable development in the Aral Sea Basin. It covers:

· integrated water resources management;

· environmental protection;

· socio-economic issues and institutional;

· legal strengthening of water management in the region.

The programme is expected to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, improve preparedness to address new challenges, including climate change, and foster integrated water resources management at the national, river-basin and regional levels.

For further information on the engagement of UNECE in water cooperation in Central Asia please visit:

or contact:

Mr. Bo Libert, UNECE Regional Adviser on Environment
Tel.: +41-22-917 23 96

Note to editors:

The International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) was established in early 1990s by five Central Asian States — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — to implement in a coordinated way the practical measures and programmes to overcome the impacts of the Aral crisis and to improve environmental and socio-economic conditions in Aral Sea Basin.

Dialogue of the Executive Secretaries of the UN Regional Commissions with the UNGA Second Committee, 5 November 2014, New York

Dialogue of the Executive Secretaries of the UN Regional Commissions with the UNGA Second Committee:

The Means of Implementation in Support of the post-2015 Development Agenda: Regional Perspectives

The objective of the Second Committee Dialogue with the Executive Secretaries this session is for Member States and other stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how the regional dimension can continue to play a critical role in catalysing and mobilizing the means of implementation, but now, in the achievement of the post-2015 development agenda.

The means of implementation have been recognized as a critical element for the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda. Because of the ambitious and transformative nature of the agenda, countries will have to find ways of tapping into a broad range of sources, including traditional domestic and international public ones, as well as private and more innovative ones.

The Regional Commissions will provide specific examples of how existing regional and sub-regional initiatives and mechanisms are effectively contributing to making the means of implementation available and more readily accessible to countries, and how countries can strengthen their respective capabilities through these regional initiatives and mechanisms. The Regional Commissions will also demonstrate how they can contribute, through their work, to strengthen countries’ capabilities for the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.


Regional Ministerial Consultation calls for strong and participatory accountability for the post-2015 agenda at all levels

ece23sepPublished:23 September 2014, ECE

The Regional Ministerial Consultation “Monitoring and Accountability for the Post-2015 Development Agenda –The Regional Dimension” discussed how to give ‘teeth’ to a non-legally binding framework that will formulate an ambitious agenda of transformation towards sustainability for all countries. The focus of the discussions was on the features that are necessary to create a strong accountability and monitoring mechanism, the roles of the local, national, regional and global levels within a multi-layered architecture, and how the wealth of existing mechanisms could be integrated and adapted.

The meeting, organized by UNECE and the Regional UN Development Group for Europe and Central Asia, was held in Geneva from 15 to 16 September 2014. The Consultation was chaired by Ambassador Michael Gerber, Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development of Switzerland, and attended by around 170 participants, including experts and representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector and other international organizations.

Participants identified a number of issues that should be taken into account in designing monitoring and accountability for the post-2015 agenda from the point of view of the UNECE region.

There was a general view among participants that the monitoring and accountability framework should be an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda and not an “after-thought”. A comprehensive, multi-layered and multi-stakeholder accountability framework is crucial for the success of the post-2015 development agenda. An overall accountability mechanism should ensure linkages between various levels (local, national, regional, global), actors (state and non-state) and sectors.

Accountability should be understood as a participatory and inclusive process, which envisages cooperation and an interactive dialogue between multiple stakeholders. Governments, as the primary duty bearers, are the key actors to be held accountable. Accountability also needs to involve parliaments, organized civil society groups and citizens, the private sector and international organizations.

Incentives for countries and other stakeholders to participate in a monitoring and accountability framework were considered a critical factor for success. Shared learning and positive rewards seem more effective to promote progress and participation than negative assessments. Some participants mentioned that ranking of the performance of countries in achieving SDGs in a clear and transparent way could be a powerful incentive in meeting these goals. Information on relative performance could inform the decisions of investors and donors, thus unlocking access to funding for the best performers.

The need for a “data revolution” was emphasized to strengthen monitoring and accountability. Data needs for the post-2015 development agenda are significant but there are already some initiatives to build upon, including the recommendations of the Conference of European Statisticians on how to measure sustainable development. Technological progress and “big data” offer new opportunities to strengthen real time monitoring and contribute to a transparent accountability framework.

The overall accountability framework should rely on the information, outcomes and lessons derived from existing monitoring and accountability mechanisms.  A pragmatic approach, building on existing mechanisms, should prevail.

The European region, in particular, has a solid set of institutions and mechanisms with mandates and data capacity to review and monitor socioeconomic and environmental developments as well as democratic governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The value of peer reviews was recognized but some participants stressed that these reviews should go beyond the exchange of best practices to identify areas of underperformance, analyse the underlying causes and propose means of improvement. Experience with the UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews shows that regular monitoring of recommendations to improve performance in different policy areas can lead to strong results if accompanied by political will. Some features of an effective mechanism of peer reviews conducted by the OECD were also stressed.

In the private sector, there are already a number of mechanisms that promote reporting on environmental, social and governance factors, including at the global level initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the United Nations Global Compact.

There was a strong degree of consensus on the importance of the regional level in a multi-layered accountability mechanism as a link between the national and global levels. Complementarity between different levels in the accountability chain should be a key consideration.

A regional review can build ownership and understanding for the universal nature of the new agenda in the region. Regional commissions as well as the Regional UNDG Teams can promote the exchange of experiences and good practices and facilitate capacity building. The regional level also is the natural platform to address transboundary challenges like water cooperation or the green economy, which UNECE promotes through the Environment for Europe process, the Water Convention or the green economy toolbox.

Monitoring and review at the global level is essential and depends on high level political engagement. Many participants stressed that the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is called to play the central role in ensuring the coherence of the overall accountability framework. It was underlined that the HLPF, under the auspices of ECOSOC, will conduct meaningful reviews from 2016 onwards, also taking into account the results of regional reviews.

In follow-up to the consultation, the Chair’s Summary will be submitted to the Secretary-General as an input to his synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda which will be prepared by the end of 2014.

ECLAC Addresses the Paradoxes and Challenges of Climate Change’s Economic and Social Impact in the Region

Press conference: by Ms. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)(22 September 2014) Preliminary estimates suggest that the economic costs of climate change will be around 2.5 % of Latin America and the Caribbean’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in the case that the temperature rises 2.5 °C above the historical average, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, said today in the following statement released in the context of the Climate Summit, which will take place on 23 September at the United Nations headquarters in New York:

“For the last decade, ECLAC has studied the economic and social costs of climate change in Latin American and Caribbean countries, providing the statistical information needed to make decisions and offering numerous public policy recommendations.

Estimates from different studies suggest that the economic costs of climate change could total between 1.5 % and 5 % of the region’s annual GDP. These calculations are still preliminary and include a high level of uncertainty because they do not address all the potential effects or possible results of adaptation actions.

These averages do not reflect the region’s heterogeneity either, but they do offer enough evidence to justify incorporating the medium-term effects of climate change into public decisions, for example, regarding infrastructure investments. Investment is the bridge between the short and medium term and these studies allow policy makers to act early.

Latin America and the Caribbean has contributed less to climate change than other regions, but nonetheless it is particularly vulnerable to its effects. The region’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) represent 9 % of the global total, with an annual growth rate of 0.6 % between 1990 and 2011 (compared with 1.5% worldwide). What characterized this region is that a significant proportion of emissions have come from changes in the use of soil, deforestation and agriculture.

The most pressing challenge for the region at this time is adaptation to climate change, especially in the Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean and Central American countries. The annual adaptation costs for Latin America and the Caribbean have been estimated at around 0.5 % of the region’s annual GDP. Although these calculations are preliminary, they clearly reflect the trend in this phenomenon.

The region must urgently design and implement adaptation strategies that include a long-term vision and take into account collateral impacts. The protection of water basins, including forest and soil preservation on high ground and periodic dredging in low areas, is one telling case. A notable example of the pressing need for adaptation is the flooding caused by hurricanes at important basins in southern Mexico and northern Colombia.

The vulnerability of Latin American and Caribbean countries is exacerbated by its geography, the way its population and infrastructure are distributed, its dependence on natural resources, the importance of agricultural activity, and the length of its coastal areas-both along the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Evidence suggests that climate change impact in Latin America and the Caribbean is already relevant and will probably be greater in the future. Variations in temperature levels and precipitation patterns can already be seen. The biggest risks are concentrated in agriculture, water availability, forest conservation, loss of biodiversity, the population’s health, tourism in coastal areas, and rural poverty reduction.

The economic dynamism experienced by the region in the last decade has contributed to reducing poverty and improving the population’s living conditions, but it has also generated negative effects such us atmospheric pollution, greater fossil fuel consumption and the resulting contribution to climate change.

It is a fact that this region has the highest degree of urbanization on the planet. At the same time, there is an increase in private motorization. The lack of modern, safe and high-quality public transportation leads to the preeminence of private vehicles, concentrated among the people who have the highest income levels and who also benefit the most from subsidies to fossil fuels and infrastructure.

The region still has time to choose the paths towards development with equality and environmental sustainability, especially in cities. This is the time for the region to make crucial decisions in order to increase the supply and quality of public services, use renewable energies and shift to a lower-carbon production matrix.

On a global level, the current commitments on mitigating greenhouse gases are still insufficient for stabilizing climate conditions. To do that, the approximately seven tons of CO2 per capita that are emitted today would need to be reduced to two tons per capita by 2050. Only a global agreement with the participation of all countries, along with a paradigmatic technological change in production and consumption patterns, could provide a solution to this phenomenon.

That is why ECLAC is here to accompany the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in convening this Summit ahead of the Conference of the Parties that will take place in our region-specifically in Lima, Peru-in December of this year.

Latin American and Caribbean countries can be fundamental actors in this global but asymmetrical challenge, given that very often those who have contributed the most to GHG emissions historically do not suffer the most intense impacts of climate change, and they normally have more resources to adapt to the new climate conditions.

The challenge of climate change is, ultimately, to transition towards a new model of sustainable development with equality, in the framework of shared but differentiated responsibilities.”

More information:

In New York please contact María Amparo Lasso, Chief of the ECLAC Public Information Unit. E-mail:; Mobile: (56 9) 7967 8306.

In Santiago de Chile please contact ECLAC’s Public Information Unit. E-mail:; Telephone: (56 2) 2210 2040.

Arab Dignitaries and Senior Officials Take Part in ESCWA 28th Ministerial Session



On 17 September 2014, Arab ministers and senior regional and foreign officials took part today in the opening of the 28th ministerial session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a key regional event hosted by the Tunisian government, and held under the patronage of the President of the Republic, Mr. Moncef Al Marzouki. In the opening session, Arab and foreign diplomats and senior officials listened to statements that echoed Arab concerns and aspirations towards a better tomorrow guided by social justice.

Speakers were Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Tunis Salem Issa Al Zaabi, whose country chaired the 27th session of ESCWA; Minister of State of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Ghanem al-Buainain, whose country is chairing the 28th session of ESCWA; UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf; and Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Al Mongi Hamdi.

The message of the UN Secretary-General to the event was read by ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Nadim Khouri. Following the statements, the audience watched a documentary filmed on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of ESCWA, which showcased the most important events during these years.

Read more:

The ‘Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia’ Launched in Stockholm


escwastorywaterESCWA and the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) launched the Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia on 3 september at the World Water Week in Stockholm. This publication is the first effort led by the United Nations to comprehensively identify and assess the state of transboundary surface and groundwater resources in the Middle East, and was prepared in close consultation with ESCWA member countries as well as regional and international experts.

“This unique publication in its groundbreaking information and distinctive preparation process that actively involved ESCWA member countries will provide new insights for future research on shared water resources in the region and will serve as a basis for continuing regional cooperation on water as well as other natural resources that are strategic for this region and often of shared nature,” indicated Roula Majdalani, director SDPD.

Boasting 60 new maps and over 200 figures, tables and boxes with recent, comprehensive data series, the Inventory provides an up-to-date view of the state and evolution of shared water resources in Western Asia. It thus constitutes a sound scientific basis for informing discussion and fostering dialogue on these precious resources that have become increasingly important to sustain development in an era of growing demand and dwindling supply.

One of the key findings of the Inventory is the largely neglected fact that water quality in the region is rapidly deteriorating and is eclipsed by concerns over quantity.The Inventory also points out that there are more shared water resources in Western Asia than was generally assumed and the lack of accurate data hampers joint water management. Another finding stresses that it is already too late to save some shared waters and countries need to cooperate more closely in order to sustain the shared resources that remain.

The Inventory is published on a dedicated website which allows users to browse contents and download individual chapters and maps, available at further inquiries, kindly contact

Arab High Level Forum on Sustainable Development

escwaapril2014On 2-4 April 2014, the Jordanian capital Amman hosted the “Arab High Level Forum on Sustainable Development” organized by ESCWA in cooperation with Ministries of Planning and International Cooperation and of Environment in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the League of Arab States (LAS) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The Forum, which was inaugurated by HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal, gathered a crowd of government officials, officials from the United Nations and its specialized agencies, LAS specialized agencies, funding institutions and the civil society.

Topics of discussion among conferees included the ESCWA proposal underway on a set of sustainable development goals for the Arab Region. The proposal reflects the outcomes of consultations led by ESCWA on the subject, in addition to the key conclusions emanating from the various regional and national consultations on the post-2015 development agenda; the proposed Arab Strategic Framework for Sustainable Development that ESCWA and its partners are developing as an update of the Sustainable Development Initiative in the Arab Region, which provides a regional framework for coordinated action on sustainable development; the
Arab Regional Roadmap for Green Economy Investment; and progress made in the Arab region towards the millennium development goals and means of accelerating their achievement and sustaining gains in the future, as part of Arab regional preparations for the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) in 2014.

On the sidelines of the Forum, ESCWA signed with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on green growth cooperation. Participants in the meeting defined the role of the Forum and how it relates to the regional institutional development framework, especially the biennial ESCWA Ministerial Session, and LAS. They stressed that continued occupation is an impediment to sustainable development, noting the need for international cooperation to achieve sustainable development, the need for reforms within the international framework that would enable developing countries to fulfill their ambitions, the need for reforms on the regional level, and the necessity of integrating all social groups in the development process and in policy formulation.

Participants made noteworthy contributions on governance, peace and security, the occupation obstacle, technology transfer and implementation, and disaster risks. They agreed on the necessity of not transforming the youth agenda into a tool for political pressure developing countries. They underlined the role of youth as an influencing agent both on and by sustainable development, and showed existing gaps in implementation methods, especially in the fields of technology and research and development.

Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative (ESCWA Publication)



For the Arab countries, integration is a development imperative. Around the world, even the greatest powers have opted to be part of larger regional entities in order to manage globalization and the competition it brings. Meanwhile, Arab countries – fragmented and divided – try to face individually external pressures, domestic challenges and emerging risks in a world growing more interconnected and complex each day. The isolation of individual Arab countries is all the more regrettable because Arabs share a common language, heritage, history and culture, and are linked by geographical proximity. No region that successfully integrated began with greater advantages.
Arab integration is not a new idea. It has been adopted as an official goal and attempted at different times since the 1950s. However, a history of division actively encouraged by outside forces, and an absence of clear political will and strategies, have almost always frustrated these efforts. As a result, Arab countries have missed several opportunities to join forces to promote development and national security, wasting the potential of integration to create a regional order that upholds the rights, freedoms and dignity of all its citizens. Taking its cue from the first aims of formal Arab cooperation over sixty years ago, the present report calls for a new Arab project of comprehensive integration. This ambitious initiative rests on three pillars: stronger political cooperation for good governance and effective external diplomacy; deeper economic integration to reap benefits for all Arab countries; and more extensive educational and cultural reform to root out lodged constraints and enable Arab knowledge societies to thrive.
An important goal is to unify the Arab space, creating one area where all Arab citizens enjoy full citizenship rights in a true nation of free will, creative knowledge, real power, continuous renewal and autonomy. The report argues that nothing less will answer the awakened call of the Arab people for justice, opportunities and freedom as heard during the recent wave of popular protests across the region. This historic awakening lends powerful impetus to Arab integration, which can deliver for the majority of Arabs those benefits denied them by its absence.
The report demonstrates that comprehensive integration, properly managed, can benefit all the Arab countries. It emphasizes, moreover, that an integrated Arab region will not close itself to the world but seek to consolidate relations with other regional groups and strengthen ties with other civilizations.



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