"Small, discreet, agile, service- and future-oriented", these were the words (or the "anthropological definition of UNECE" as the EXCOM Chair described it) used by the Swiss Ambassador to describe UNECE at the 44th meeting of the Executive Committee (EXCOM) which took place on 18 October in the presence of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Kassym Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva.
In his opening address, Ambassador Ugljesa Ugi Zvekic, Chair of the Commission and of the Executive Committee of UNECE, said that "UNECE is very much a results-oriented organization, thanks to a modus operandi in which member States and the secretariat join hands, engage in a dialogue and together take action in the interest and for the benefit of all." He also recalled the purpose of the meeting, saying "We all, the member States and the secretariat, must ensure that UNECE stays dynamic, effective, results-oriented and flexible to face and respond to ever increasing new challenges. Therefore, after 6-7 years have passed we are revisiting the 2005 reform, and are taking our task very seriously."
In his welcome remarks, UNECE Executive Secretary Ján Kubiš said that the purpose of the review was to "reconfirm the relevance of the organization for member States." "In many ways, UNECE is different from any other part of the United Nations", he said, adding "we do not shuffle papers or declarations nor do we produce voluminous general reports to catch dust on the shelves. We help integrate our pan-European area, we build a coherent regional economic space, we foster economic cooperation in the European and transatlantic region and beyond. We work for the real economy and are a key organization for achieving sustainable development goals." Finally, he stressed "UNECE is a knowledge-based organization with invaluable high-quality specialized experts. Yet, in this time of economic crisis and financial austerity we responded to the call of the Secretary-General to reduce our budget by abolishing seven posts - a cut well above our share in the staffing table of the UN Secretariat."
As the Secretary-General himself noted in his address, it was the first time that a Secretary-General participated in a meeting of the UNECE Executive Committee. Mr. Ban said that "many people may not be aware of UNECE's contribution to the diverse products and services they use almost every day", citing "safer cars, fresh fruit, cleaner air, a protected environment" and easier border-crossing. He stressed that "these and other achievements have spread far beyond your region, making UNECE a go-to source for improving global public goods and services", with more than 100 countries beyond the UNECE region benefitting from its work.
The Secretary-General thanked all EXCOM member States for their strong support. He recalled that in September, at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, he had "set out five imperatives, five opportunities to shape the world of tomorrow", and said that "UNECE is well placed to contribute to each" of them.
- Sustainable development. Mr. Ban acknowledged that UNECE's work on green economy and eco-innovation, various environmental conventions, sustainable forestry, housing, statistics, trade facilitation, transport or energy efficiency had the potential to fully meet the so-called 50-50-50 challenge, namely to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent in the first 50 years of this century where the population will have increased by 50 per cent. The Secretary-General also welcomed UNECE's contribution to the Rio + 20 process, including the recent Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Astana and "is looking forward to the conclusions of the regional preparatory meeting" that will take place on 1 and 2 December 2011. He will also "look to UNECE to help sustain global momentum to fight climate change, including through support for the new Sustainable Energy for All initiative", which he launched in September.
- Prevention. Mr. Ban said that "UNECE's work on the sustainable management of water and energy resources in Central Asia, including dam safety" contribute to the UN efforts to prevent conflicts. He stated that UNECE's Water Convention deserves support and he hoped it will soon become open to countries outside the UNECE region.
- A safer and more secure world. "UNECE's work on building economic ties between Central Asia and Afghanistan is a solid contribution to greater stability and security in that fragile region," Mr. Ban said. He also mentioned UNECE's work "on the safety of roads and coal mines, and the improved functioning of border crossings to combat illegal trafficking."
- Supporting nations in transition. "UNECE's long experience in supporting economic transition in countries of East and Southeast Europe and the former Soviet Union speaks for itself" he said, adding that "successes and setbacks" can be shared with the emerging democracies in North Africa and the Middle East.
- Working with and for women and youth. Mr. Ban said that "we need the full engagement of both – in government, business and civil society", and he "welcomed UNECE's work on women entrepreneurship, gender statistics and ageing."
Mr. Ban commended UNECE for "sharing best practices within the UN system" and "forging closer ties with important regional organizations such as the OSCE, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization." "Many of the norms and standards developed first by UNECE are being used more and more by the European Union and, more recently, by the Eurasian Economic Community and the Customs Union," he said. "This is a genuine contribution to stronger economic cooperation and integration."
Finally he welcomed UNECE's contribution to the UN change management process. "Delivering more with less must be the imperative of the UN," he said calling for "more efficiency through better use of ICT as well as improved managerial skills and a better coordination of activities within the UN family to avoid duplications."
Turkey, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, the European Union, the Russian Federation, Germany, Ukraine and Belarus all expressed support for UNECE and its work, stressing that the presence of the Secretary-General at the meeting was a clear signal of its importance and relevance for its member States, and beyond. The EU stressed that "UNECE can be proud of its achievements" and that it is "the leading Regional Commission", one "which many regional bodies could take inspiration from". It expressed the hope that this meeting be a sign that "UNECE's successes and best practices" will be "more recognized in the UN family" in the future. The Ambassador of Russia highlighted that "UNECE is one of the most efficient Departments of the UN secretariat" and that it is the "only universal body for cooperation in its fields of responsibility in Europe". Several ambassadors stressed, in particular, the need to avoid that the current discussions on budgetary savings result in a "weakening of UNECE", given the fact that many of its activities are already running with the "smallest possible, even smallest responsible" level of resources necessary to ensure quality output.
The address of the Secretary-General is available at:
The address of UNECE's Executive Secretary is available at:
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
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Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05
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