ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
PROGRAMME PLANNING: REPORT ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR THE BIENNIUM 1998-1999
(Item 8 (b) of the provisional agenda)
Note by the secretariat
1. Substantive servicing provided by the secretariat to the Commission and ntergovernmental bodies subsidiary to the Commission, ad hoc ministerial conferences and intergovernmental meetings in the biennium 1998-1999
1. The secretariat submits to the Commission an end-of-biennium report on the implementation of the programme of work, 1998-1999, for review of the accomplishment of work and utilization of resources.
2. The Commission, at its fifty-third session, held at Bangkok in April 1997, endorsed the programme of work, 1998-1999, subject to an assessment of the resource allocation. That programme of work was approved by the General Assembly, at its fifty-second session, within the context of Section 17 of the United Nations programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999, with reduced appropriation of regular budget (RB) resources. The programme objectives for the biennium focused on three major themes: (a) the promotion of regional economic cooperation in essential areas such as trade, investment, technological capability-building, transport and infrastructure development; (b) environment and sustainable development that seeks to contain environmental degradation and emphasizes sound management of non-renewable resources; and (c) the promotion of the formulation and implementation of effective social policies, action plans and programmes aimed at alleviating poverty, enhancing the quality of life of all social groups and pursuing vigorous development of the regionís human resources. Given the different levels of development of the members and associate members of ESCAP, the programme of work aimed at improving the capacity of least developed, landlocked and island developing countries, as well as countries with economies in transition, to be integrated more closely in the regionís dynamic development and in international development in the economic and social fields. The programme of work also aimed at accelerating regional follow-up to the declarations and programmes of action adopted by the global conferences in support of national and subregional efforts. The strengthening of subregional cooperation and the reinforcement of inter-agency collaboration within the region was another important objective of the programme of work.
3. The Commission, at its fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth sessions, held at Bangkok in April 1998 and April 1999 respectively, endorsed changes to the programme of work, taking into consideration the level of RB resources approved for ESCAP by the General Assembly at its fifty-second session and the emerging global and regional mandates. It also took into account the reallocation of RB resources by the Executive Secretary based on the outcome of the 1997 review of the RB resource allocations at the programme activity level by member and associate member governments, and the level of extrabudgetary (XB) resources approved by donors. During the biennium, the overall objectives of the programme were redefined by the Commission to deal with the after-effects of the financial and economic crisis which had seized a number of East and South-East Asian countries in the second half of 1997 and had impacted adversely on economic and social development in the region. That included the analysis of the causes and consequences of the crisis, the action necessary to overcome them, and the formulation of policy options to mitigate the effects of the crisis and to prevent its future recurrence. The three major themes which were the focus of the programme were geared towards the redefined overall objectives.
4. The present report comprises two parts: an overview of achievements in the implementation of the programme of work and an analysis of achievements by each subprogramme. In assessing the quality of work undertaken under the 10 subprogrammes, three general criteria were applied: (a) the level of interest and participation of member and associate member governments and other entities concerned in the activities and outputs of ESCAP; (b) direct feedback from the users/beneficiaries of the secretariatís services and products; and (c) requests for future assistance and cooperation. Although difficult to quantify, the contribution made to the enhancement of skills of national personnel in dealing with relevant issues and in national policy-making, and the forging of consensus and the adoption of national plans and policies advocated by ESCAP were also identified as important assessment criteria under some of the subprogrammes.
5. The Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives and Other Representatives Designated by Members of the Commission (ACPR), at its two hundred and forty-fifth session held in April 2000, reviewed the secretariatís report on programme implementation. Various suggestions for improvement of Part II of the report particularly in terms of a uniform presentation of the ten subprogrammes, emphasizing the assessment on the utilization of outputs and services by end users were taken into consideration in the present document.
Action required by the Commission
6. The Commission is invited to provide comments and recommendations on any aspect of the present report and on programme implementation as well as its qualitative and quantitative assessments.
I. OVERVIEW OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROGRAMME OF WORK
A. Qualitative analysis
7. The annual economic and social survey of Asia and the Pacific provided the main analytical output for monitoring, reviewing and assessing regional economic and social development and for providing in-depth analysis of the financial and economic crisis in Asia. The deliberations on these issues at the fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth sessions of the Commission assisted the members and associate members in gaining clearer insight into the causes and consequences of the crisis and enabling them to consider appropriate policy measures to mitigate the adverse impact and avert future catastrophes at the national and regional levels. These efforts were complemented and strengthened by technical assistance activities addressing the impact of the crisis and its implications for specific areas, such as social development, the management of capital flows, trade and investment, industrial and technological development and the energy sector in the region. These activities included in-depth studies, high-level regional seminars, panel discussions and workshops, many of which were carried out jointly with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). Countries participating in these activities were given the opportunity to learn from the experiences of those most affected, including Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.
8. The theme study, "Asia and the Pacific into the twenty-first century: prospects for social development" submitted to the Commission at its fifty-fourth session focused on major socio-economic, demographic and political trends impacting on the social development prospects in the region at the threshold of the new millennium. It analysed related issues and alternative policy approaches in addressing the socio-economic challenges, including the situation of specific disadvantaged social groups. The analysis also encompassed the social impact of the financial and economic crisis, and heightened government awareness of the need to give equal weight to both economic and social development, particularly to the imperative of people-centred development and distributive equity. The resultant deliberations among the ministers and senior policy makers precipitated a strong regional consensus on the need to provide an enabling environment conducive to social progress. During the session, the Commission adopted five resolutions in the field of social development, including population.
9. A new focus of the work of ESCAP was on the application of information technology. The Commission, at its fifty-fifth session, deliberated on the theme topic study, "Asia and the Pacific into the twenty-first century: information technology, globalization, economic security and development". The study assessed regional progress in the application of information technology, identified constraints and highlighted policy actions for increasing competitiveness in the emerging information technology. The secretariat intensified its efforts on the building of national and institutional capacity in the application of information technology, particularly in statistics, population and trade.
10. The Meeting of Ministers of Industry and Technology, held at Bangkok in February 1998, focused on modalities for ensuring the international competitiveness of manufacturing production in the region in the context of globalization. The Ministers accorded high priority to investment-related technology transfer and adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Industrial and Technological Development in the Asian and Pacific Region and the Regional Action Plan for Industrial and Technological Development. At the Second Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, held at New Delhi in November 1999 and hosted by the Government of India, regional commitment to the strengthening of space applications was forged through the Delhi Declaration on Space Technology Applications in Asia and the Pacific for Improved Quality of Life in the New Millennium, and the launching of the second phase of the Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development.
11. The secretariat provided substantive servicing for the Commission and intergovernmental bodies subsidiary to the Commission, as well as ad hoc ministerial conferences and intergovernmental meetings mandated by the Commission, as shown in table 1. The table also shows the level of representation in those meetings of member and associate member governments, United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other entities. In addition, a regional hearing in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations to be held in New York in 2000 was organized by ESCAP.
12. During the review period, ESCAP actively pursued follow-up activities to the global conferences. It facilitated national actions and organized regional reviews on progress in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women; the Copenhagen Declaration and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development; and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Bali Declaration on Population and Sustainable Development. Through those reviews, members and associate members formulated recommendations and important regional perspectives and inputs for the global reviews and further follow-up to the respective global and related regional agreements. The Asia-Pacific position for the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, adopted at an ESCAP intergovernmental meeting, provided substantial input to the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes, adopted by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth.
13. ESCAP continued to provide substantive support in response to requests of subregional groupings such as the Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC) and the Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) in the development and implementation of their programmes. It also played an important role in promoting the North-East Asian Subregional Programme of Environmental Cooperation, especially in priority areas such as capacity-building in clean coal technology, environmental monitoring and emission estimation. Assistance in capacity-building for new members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was strengthened, particularly in trade facilitation, focusing on electronic commerce. Trade and investment, infrastructure development, human resources development and poverty alleviation were priority areas identified jointly by the heads of subregional organizations and ESCAP to enhance inter-subregional cooperation. In assisting the Pacific island developing countries, the ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre (ESCAP/POC) continued to play a catalytic role through the provision of technical assistance. Close collaboration was maintained with the Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community through active support to and participation in respective planning meetings and training activities, such as participation in a Pacific island country/partnerís meeting organized by the Forum Secretariat, and the Meeting of the Forum Economic Ministers, held in Nadi in 1998.
14. In pursuance of Economic and Social Council resolution 1998/46, the First Regional Coordination Meeting for the ESCAP region, chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General, was held in June 1999. The Meeting reviewed the existing cooperation mechanisms between ESCAP and United Nations funds and programmes, and agencies and entities at the regional level, including the Regional Inter-agency Committee for Asia and the Pacific (RICAP), to assess the adequacy of those arrangements, and to propose means for improving the collective response of the United Nations system to the priorities and needs of the region. In follow up, the Second Regional Coordination Meeting, scheduled for April 2000, will review more critically the functioning and structure of RICAP with a view to its rationalization and to identifying an advocacy agenda for the region within the United Nations system.
15. In addition to RB allocations to the ESCAP programme under Section 17 of the programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999, Section 21 of the United Nations regular programme of technical cooperation provided for 10 full-time regional advisers, consultants and staff to render advisory services and training for national capacity-building in such areas as national accounts; trade policy and trade promotion; trade facilitation; poverty alleviation and social integration; environmental management; water resources; macroeconomic policies; social development; development economics and strategic planning; and ports and harbours development. During the biennium, a total of 181 advisory missions were rendered by full-time and short-term experts and 15 workshops/training courses were organized for the benefit of 45 developing member and associate member governments in the region. Sixty-two per cent of the beneficiaries of the advisory services and workshops/training courses were least developed, landlocked and island developing countries or countries with economies in transition. The areas in which the highest number of advisory services were rendered by full-time experts were social development and national accounts.
16. According to established practice, the Commission, at its fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth sessions, examined the reports of the secretariat on the implementation of the programme of work. Based on the recommendations from those deliberations, the focus of efforts is being shifted from the production of publications to increasing the provision of group training activities, data and information dissemination through ESCAP Web sites, and promoting technical cooperation among developing countries in carrying out operational activities.
17. Initiatives were taken by the secretariat to elicit feedback from target beneficiaries and users of services, including participants in meetings and training courses and users of publications and Web sites, through surveys and consultations with country representatives and stakeholders of technical assistance projects. Several projects executed by ESCAP that were funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) were evaluated by independent specialists during the biennium. A joint evaluation exercise was undertaken by the secretariat and the Government of Japan to assess the impact of selected technical assistance projects implemented under the Japan-ESCAP Cooperation Fund (JECF).
18. In pursuing the recommendation of the Commission to streamline the publications programme of ESCAP, the secretariat completed, in June 1999, the "Guide to ESCAP publication activities," which was disseminated to staff to assist them in preparing and improving the quality of ESCAP publications. The secretariat is setting up a mechanism to monitor compliance with the guidelines on preparing, printing and distributing ESCAP publications. A questionnaire was circulated in December 1999 to gather data and information on the preparation of manuscripts and mailing lists, the adoption of peer review, readership survey or other evaluation measures, and citations in non-ESCAP publications, among other aspects. An initial review of the responses to the questionnaire is being undertaken.
B. Quantitative analysis and resource utilization
19. Table 2 provides a summary of workload statistics during the biennium 1998-1999 by type of activity and subprogramme. Two hundred and seventy-one publications were completed, comprising 167 recurrent and 104 non-recurrent publications. There were 53 recurrent and non-recurrent publications in the programme of work for the biennium which were not completed by the end of the biennium, mainly due to the lack of RB and XB resources, or delays in XB funding. The uncompleted publications and other activities are listed in the secretariat document on proposed programme changes, 2000-2001 (E/ESCAP/1187) for the consideration of the Commission on either postponement to 2000-2001 or deletion. Over the bienniums, 1996-1997 and 1998-1999, most of the publications that were postponed or terminated were in the programme areas pertaining to industry and technology. With the merger of the subprogrammes on trade and investment and on industry and technology into one subprogramme on regional economic cooperation, effective 1 January 2000, the publications programme for the biennium 2000-2001, especially with regard to recurrent publications, needs to be re-examined, taking into account the absorptive capacity of the secretariat. In addition to 15 recurrent sales titles produced by the secretariat, 81 publications, totalling 23,710 copies, were requested by the United Nations sales publications offices in New York and Geneva.
20. The advisory services and group training activities reported in table 2 exclude those rendered by the ESCAP regional advisers under Section 21 of the United Nations regular programme of technical cooperation. The number of advisory services and group training activities reported under subprogrammes 7 and 9 also excludes those provided by the UNFPA country support teams stationed in Bangkok, Kathmandu and Suva, with which the secretariat maintained close consultations. The highest number of group training, advisory services and fellowships during the biennium were implemented under subprogramme 4, followed by subprogrammes 8 and 5. In terms of the number of participants at seminars and workshops, subprogrammes 1, 4 and 5 had 56 per cent of the total share. Three regional institutions under the auspices of the Commission (APCTT, the CGPRT Centre and SIAP) continued to provide ongoing training for officials from developing countries in the region in close cooperation with the secretariat. While the number of activities under subprogramme 10 appear modest, it should be noted that in the overall priority given by ESCAP to the least developed, landlocked and island developing countries they continued to benefit from many activities implemented under the other subprogrammes, as was the case in the previous bienniums.
21. Table 3 shows the utilization of RB and XB Professional staff resources. A total of 2,765.5 RB Professional work-months were allocated to the programme areas for the biennium, including those redeployed from programme support to the programme area effective 15 July 1998. During the biennium, the average RB vacancy rate was approximately 15 per cent. The high vacancy rate continued from the previous biennium in programme areas such as transport and communications, statistics and least developed, landlocked and island developing countries. A total of 712.4 XB Professional work-months were available for the implementation of the programme of work. Approximately 39 per cent of the XB Professional staff resources were used for technical cooperation activities, with 47 per cent of the total XB Professional staff resources distributed in subprogrammes 5 and 8. The average ratio of RB to XB Professional staff resources available for the implementation of the programme of work was approximately 3:1, as was the case in the biennium 1996-1997. The ratios of RB to XB Professional staff resources under subprogramme 8 were 1.3:1, indicating the heavy dependence on XB staff resources in implementing the transport and communications subprogramme.
22. Approximately 22 per cent of RB and XB Professional staff resources were used for the production of recurrent and non-recurrent publications. Out of the total RB and XB Professional resources allocated during the biennium, subprogrammes 2 and 8 utilized respectively 50 and 33 per cent of their allocations for this purpose. In the case of subprogramme 2, substantial RB staff resources were used for the preparation of the annual economic and social surveys and the other recurrent publications. On the other hand, a large proportion of RB and XB resources allocated to subprogramme 8 were used to produce non-recurrent publications, mainly pertaining to the development of the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway.
23. Table 4 provides a summary of RB and XB resources actually used for the implementation of the programme of work in the biennium 1998-1999. The expenditure represents the amount of RB and XB funds used for the implementation of activities under the respective subprogrammes, including both staff and non-staff costs. While the XB Professional work-months include those of experts on non-reimbursable loan, the XB expenditure does not reflect the amount of funds required for those experts. The highest XB expenditure is under subprogramme 5, reflecting the strong funding support from donors in the field of social development, particularly in the area of human resources development.
C. Comparative analysis of programme delivery and the use of resources for the bienniums 1994-1995, 1996-1997 and 1998-1999
24. Table 5 presents a comparison of ESCAP workload statistics, for three bienniums, 1994-1995, 1996-1997 and 1998-1999, by type of activity. In pursuance of Commission resolution 53/1, the duration of intergovernmental meetings, inclusive of legislative committees but exclusive of the annual Commission sessions, was reduced to 52 meeting days in the biennium 1996-1997 from 78 in the biennium 1994-1995. However, the number of meeting days in the biennium 1998-1999 increased to 65, mainly owing to the number of intergovernmental review meetings held as follow-up activities to the global conferences. There is a continued decline in the number of recurrent and non-recurrent publications over the three bienniums. Activities were increased for electronic dissemination of data and information through the Internet. The number of group training activities and participants trained have increased steadily.
25. The level of RB and XB staff resources actually used for the implementation of the programme of work during the three bienniums are shown in chart 1. It indicates a continuing decline in the level of RB and XB staff resources actually used for the implementation of the programme of work.
26. Chart 2 shows a comparison over the three bienniums of the RB Professional staff resources actually used and those which were not available for the implementation of the programme of work. The RB Professional staff resources utilized in the biennium 1998-1999 were 72 per cent, an improvement from 68 per cent in the biennium 1996-1997.
II. ANALYSIS OF ACHIEVEMENTS BY SUBPROGRAMME
Subprogramme 1: Regional economic cooperation: trade and investment (Implemented by: International Trade and Economic Cooperation Division)
27. The Committee on Regional Economic Cooperation and its Steering Group played an effective role in guiding activities to address key issues for strengthening regional economic cooperation. These included dealing with emerging challenges and opportunities, as a result of the Asian financial and economic crisis, in trade and investment and in the liberalization agenda for Asia and the Pacific. Assistance was provided to developing countries to support their accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Related seminars and workshops were held on the accession process and the implications of their accession commitments, such as that held for the three countries of Indo-China (Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam) which sensitized the government officials concerned and the private sector to the opportunities and challenges of integration into WTO. For WTO members, the objective was to assist them to develop a positive agenda and to enhance their capacity to play a more active role in WTO. ESCAP documents in this area of work were widely requested from other regions. The Meeting of Senior Officials on Developing Countries and the Future WTO Trade Agenda, jointly organized by ESCAP, UNCTAD and ADB, provided a forum for discussing major trade policy issues of concern to the developing economies of the ESCAP region, as they prepared for the third WTO ministerial conference and future negotiations in 2000.
28. A symposium was held under the project for the comprehensive development of Indo-China, which heightened international awareness of comprehensive strategies to promote trade and investment activities as well as private sector development in the subregion.
29. The issue of trade liberalization was further addressed with particular focus on the implications of the General Agreement on Trade in Services for Asian and Pacific economies. Policy makers from developing countries were alerted to the need for their active participation in the new round of negotiations commencing by 2000, and sensitized to the process of progressive liberalization in the services sector. Experts on the trade effects of non-tariff measures (NTMs) helped to finalize the compendium of NTMs. These activities, including identification of areas within WTO where the current rules provide only limited disciplines on the use of NTMs, have led to increased knowledge and have assisted trade policy practitioners to identify better the misuses of NTMs. The activities made a timely contributions to an enhanced understanding of the problems involved in identifying and classifying NTMs.
30. Cooperation was extended to subregional organizations, among other areas, to strengthen national capacity for trade facilitation and electronic commerce. Assistance was provided to the new ASEAN members to strengthen their capacity to participate effectively in AFTA and other ASEAN economic cooperation programmes and to SAARC to promote trade liberalization through the SAARC Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) and the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) to be established by 2001. ESCAP trade documentation software was developed for Indonesia and Sri Lanka with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises for facilitating international trade.
31. The countries of Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) launched a process of identifying a set of priority issues for the adoption of trade facilitation measures and implementing the establishment of the Trade Facilitation Working Group (TFWG) as a joint initiative of ESCAP and ADB. Joint ADB and ESCAP country-level consultations were held to solicit GMS country views on potential areas of cooperation in trade facilitation. The inception meeting of the TFWG developed an action plan, which is to be submitted for endorsement at the GMS ministerial conference, to be held in early 2000.
32. With regard to trade and investment information, a seminar on trade and investment information networking in the south-western subregion of ESCAP, jointly organized by ECO and ESCAP, led ESCAP to assist the ECO secretariat in its initiative to produce a subregional business guide that will incorporate information on all ECO members. The ECO business guide will be a handbook for investors interested in doing business in the subregion. It will help forge greater economic partnership and promote trade and investment complimentarities among ECO members.
33. An expert group meeting on facilitating trade and investment in the Pacific using information technology held in November 1999 resulted in the adoption of an action plan to assess the status of the regional and country-specific programme in promoting the use of information technology; create better linkages among the various investment promotion agencies; promote technical cooperation between developing countries in diffusing knowledge of information technology; promote targeted human resource development to promote trade in digitally exportable services; create greater awareness and support for information technology and its uses, particularly from the political leadership of participating countries; and set up a national point for liaison in information technology.
34. Through organization of the Asia-Pacific International Trade Fair (ASPATí98 ALMATY) and Asia-Pacific International Trade Fair (ASPATí99 SEOUL) in collaboration with the host countries, support was extended to the disadvantaged groups of countries to expand their export opportunities. At ASPATí98 ALMATY, three publications on how to do business in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were distributed which attracted widespread attention as they filled the existing information gap about trading opportunities with the Central Asian republics. At ASPATí99 SEOUL, special activities for women-owned business enterprises were organized to showcase the rising status of women entrepreneurs in the region. There is evidence of trade development, improved business relationships and contacts as a result of these trade fairs.
35. As a result of the joint ESCAP/GTZ mid-term review in 1997, the field project on advisory assistance to industry for export promotion, while continuing to pursue its main objective of assistance at the enterprise level, acquired an added dimension of capacity-building of intermediary organizations in the target countries. This would ensure the sustainability of assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises even after completion of the project.
36. Trade promotion activities addressed the special needs of the disadvantaged groups of countries. For the economies in transition, a seminar was organized to facilitate exchange of experiences for enhancing the effectiveness of state-owned enterprises engaged in trade promotion.
37. Under a TCDC activity, the export potential of selected Pacific island countries was analysed and buyer-seller meetings were organized in Singapore and Thailand. These created better awareness and business-level contacts between the Pacific island countries and traders in Singapore and Thailand. For the promotion of TCDC/ECDC and tripartite cooperation in trade and investment between North-East Asia and South-East Asia, a seminar was organized and attended by participants from TCDC national focal points and other trade and investment organizations. The participants agreed on a course of action for more effective networking of national focal points, including study tours to selected developing countries with a view to learning the best practices in the effective promotion and management of TCDC/ECDC activities. The first such study tour was undertaken by a team from Mongolia to Indonesia and Singapore. Another TCDC study tour of export-processing zones arranged for Armenian officials has helped them gain experience in free industrial and trade zones and apply it to the Armenian economic system. In response to the importance accorded to human resources development by the Commission, networking of centres of excellence for trade-related training was initiated through an expert group meeting. The participating institutions agreed to cooperate in planning training courses for the benefit of developing countries that did not have similar training facilities.
38. Investment promotion activities focused mainly on the Pacific island developing countries. Such activities included assistance to Tonga in developing a corporate plan, particularly for a small business development unit and an investment promotion unit and to the Federated States of Micronesia in assessing the requirements for improving investment conditions and identifying investment opportunities. In Thailand assistance was provided in studying the efficiency of the market with regard to government bonds and in the organization and management of bond-dealing centre operations. Assistance was also provided on business culture and business management in Thailand and Viet Nam.
Subprogramme 2: Regional economic cooperation: research and policy analysis
(Implemented by: Development Research and Policy Analysis Division)
39. The economic and social surveys of Asia and the Pacific, 1998 and 1999, were the main analytical outlets for monitoring, reviewing and assessing the economic and social development situation in the ESCAP region and for providing in-depth analysis of the financial and economic crisis in Asia. They looked closely at the causes of the crisis and its impact on the ESCAP region, considered the prospects for recovery, and discussed various policy measures, national and international, that could help avert future catastrophes. The 1998 survey also examined trends in the distribution of income and the incidence of poverty and offered a number of policy suggestions to ensure better synergy between growth and equity. The secretariat undertook a study on "Asia and the Pacific into the twenty-first century: information technology, globalization, economic security and development" as a part of the 1999 survey, which was also the theme topic of the Commission at its fifty-fifth session. The study assessed the progress in the region in the application of information technology, identified constraints and highlighted policy actions needed for being competitive in the emerging information economy. The study was widely disseminated on the ESCAP Web site and numerous positive reactions were received on the study.
40. The mandated recurrent and non-recurrent publications issued in 1998-1999 drew the attention of policy makers, academicians and researchers to key macroeconomic issues, such as the causes, consequences and policy lessons of the Asian financial and economic crisis; financial sector reform; foreign direct investment policies and related institution-building; and integrating environmental considerations into the economic policy-making process.
41. The regional seminars on improved management of the financial sector and the High-level Seminar on Managing Capital Flows: National and International Dimensions, organized jointly with ADB, IMF and the World Bank in 1998, promoted a better understanding of policy responses required to deal with the financial crisis in Asia. In response to the Commission resolution 55/2, requiring the secretariat to undertake a study on possible regional mechanisms for the exchange of information and early warning systems in relation to the financial and economic situation in the countries of the region, with a focus on crisis prevention and reduction of vulnerability of countries to economic and financial turmoil, the secretariat initiated a project on economic and financial monitoring and surveillance in the ESCAP region. An expert group meeting reviewed the draft study and discussed recommendations for future activities, including ways of making regional contributions to the global monitoring and surveillance programmes of IMF and other multilateral entities.
42. Some projects implemented under the subprogramme aimed at sharing experiences in formulating proposals for better economic and social policies to promote more equitable economic growth. The participants in the regional seminar under the project on growth with equity: policy lessons from experiences of selected countries in the ESCAP region recommended related long-term policies and programmes that could enhance economic growth with a wider distribution of gains; short-term measures and programmes to minimize the adverse impact of economic crises on the poor; and information and data needs for policy formulation and targeting purposes. Under another project, an evaluation manual on poverty alleviation programmes was prepared and corrective measures for improving programme efficiency were formulated for practical use of field-level personnel and NGOs in the region.
43. The countries and areas in the ESCAP region stand to derive tangible results from the implementation of the mega-project on integrating environmental considerations into economic policy-making processes. The project was implemented in cooperation with the Asia Pacific Center for Environmental Law, the Mekong River Commission, SACEP, SPREP, UNEP and ESCAP/POC. A number of best practices in institutional arrangements and mechanisms at national, local and sectoral levels and modalities for environmental assessments were identified, as well as areas where further training needed to be developed. Accordingly, the basic framework of an Internet-type training programme was developed.
44. The economies in transition benefited from technical assistance, inter alia, through advisory services and participation in various activities which addressed their specific national capacity-building needs and concerns. For example, Uzbekistan developed its own macroeconomic model with technical assistance provided by the secretariat. At their special request made during the sessions of the Commission, other economies in transition benefited from the regional experiences in promoting foreign direct investment and implementing tax reform at two subregional seminars held in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan in 1999. At a national seminar held at Dushanbe in 1999, officials from Tajikistan were able to draw lessons from the experiences of other ESCAP countries in managing the process of transition from stabilization to growth.
Subprogramme 3: Regional economic cooperation: industry and technology
(Implemented by: Industry and Technology Division)
45. The Meeting of Ministers of Industry and Technology examined critical issues related to industrial and technological development and restructuring and prospects for promoting industrial complementarities, the promotion and building-up of an investment-technology nexus, strengthening the private sectorís role and privatization for industrialization in the countries with economies in transition, industrial and skills development for upgrading technology and the integration of the least developed and island developing countries and economies in transition at the regional and global levels. It adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Industrial and Technological Development in the Asian and Pacific Region, and the Regional Action Plan for Industrial and Technological Development, which were subsequently endorsed by the Commission in resolution 54/3. The Bangkok Declaration and the Commission resolution directed the secretariat to strengthen its activities in the areas of industrial and technological development, especially keeping in view the financial and economic crisis faced by countries of the region. In conjunction with the Meeting of Ministers of Industry and Technology, a private sector symposium and an industrial and technological exhibition were organized.
46. In follow up of the outcome of the Meeting of Ministers, the secretariat prepared a comprehensive regional study and country studies (Indonesia, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea) on the implications of the financial and economic crisis on industrial and technological development, which were deliberated at a regional meeting held in April 1999. Recognizing its benefits to the countries, the meeting recommended that the secretariat continue its work on the analysis of the implications of the financial and economic crisis on the countries of the region, and evolve a series of measures in order to avoid such crisis in future.
47. In the area of private sector development, including privatization, the secretariat organized various regional and national seminars and workshops for the least developed countries and the countries with economies in transition, particularly in the Central Asian economies. These included presentations and advisory services on small and medium-sized enterprise development, privatization policies and strategies, investment promotion, legal and institutional requirements, financial sector development and requirements for private sector development, and the implications of the Asian crisis on private sector development. A training workshop on the management of small and medium-sized enterprises in Central Asian and Caucasian economies in transition was held in Kazakhstan. This training workshop was organized jointly with ECE, ILO, APCTT, the European Training Foundation (ETF) and the Kazakhstan Training Centre (KTC).
48. In the area of investment promotion, the secretariat organized various national workshops on national policies and strategies for the promotion of foreign direct investment in the least developed, island developing countries and the countries with economies in transition. In addition, two meetings of the regional network of the boards of investment were held. These activities included a focus on the importance of SMEs and the need to promote joint ventures among SMEs. In addition, the secretariat provided advisory services on investment promotion to countries at their request and organized TCDC activities aimed at strengthening national boards of investment. Advisory services were provided to Cambodia, Fiji, the Lao Peopleís Democratic Republic, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, and Viet Nam in the areas of promoting small and medium industries and apprising both the government and the private sectors of the experiences of the Republic of Korea in promoting small and medium-sized enterprises.
49. In the area of technological development, activities concentrated on assisting countries in building up capacity for technological innovation, transfer and adaptation. These activities focused on the need to adopt environmentally sustainable and clean technologies. National-level workshops were also organized to apprise countries of the usefulness and the requirements of the adoption of the ISO-9000 series as well as the ISO-14000. Such workshops were held in China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. A regional workshop on human resources development for food industries in Asia and the Pacific was held in Jakarta in cooperation with APEC, with a view to creating a network of leading institutions dealing with human resources development in the food sector.
50. In implementing Commission resolution 52/7 of 24 April 1996 on the transfer of environmentally sound technology, the secretariat undertook a review of the measures taken by the member and associate member governments to promote the transfer of environmentally sound technology and submitted the report to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Development at its first session. Furthermore, panel discussions were organized during the session on this subject. A workshop on the regional cooperative policy mechanism to promote the transfer of environmentally sound technology was held at Bangkok.
51. The secretariat also undertook a comprehensive study on the prospects for promoting rural industrialization. The study focused on the issues of building up the science and technological level in rural areas, especially in an environment of a liberalized and open system. Regional workshops were organized in China and India to deliberate on those studies.
Subprogramme 4: Environment and sustainable development
(Implemented by: Environment and Natural Resources Development Division)
52. In the area of environment, the main accomplishments included the strengthening of the North-East Asian Subregional Programme of Environment Cooperation. In addition to two senior officials meetings on environmental cooperation in North-East Asia, a series of training workshops were held on the priority areas identified by the countries, such as capacity-building in clean coal technology, environmental monitoring and emission estimation. Through various environmental related training activities, more and more countries are committing to urban environmental improvement through switching to cleaner fuel in the transport sector, attempting to clean up pollutant emissions from power plants, increasing reforested areas, adoption of river revival programmes and development of national/local level plans for implementation of Agenda 21. Under a regional project on strengthening the Regional Network of Research and Training Centres on Desertification Control in Asia and the Pacific (DESCONAP), an international expert group meeting was organized jointly with the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to prepare a regional action programme to combat desertification in Asia. Preparations for the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, 2000 and the preparation of the regional state of the environment report for 2000, have been progressing satisfactorily.
53. In the area of energy resources, a regional workshop organized in December 1998 provided a forum to discuss the impact of the financial crisis on the energy sector and the possible strategies to mitigate the impact. In the field of supply-side energy efficiency, subregional workshops were held to promote co-generation as a means of pollution control and improvement in energy efficiency. These workshops provided a meeting place for government representatives and other energy policy makers, industry sector representatives and potential investors and brought to their attention the tremendous potential in areas that technology providers had not previously studied sufficiently. A series of national workshops and a regional workshop were also held for the promotion of commercialization of renewable sources of energy.
54. In the area of water resources, the main accomplishments were the development of guidelines and the promotion of regional cooperation in the protection and rehabilitation of rivers, and the development of a regional strategy for integrated water resources management. In addition to conducting an in-depth study of the major sources and nature of water quality problems in the region, a set of guidelines were published for the protection and rehabilitation of rivers. The secretariat also conducted a regional survey and workshop on the status of waste water management. The development of a strategy for integrated water resources management is ongoing.
55. In the area of mineral resources, the secretariat increased emphasis on the application of geographic information systems (GIS) to the assessment and development of mineral resources. Two subregional workshops in the Greater Mekong Subregion and North-East Asia were held on this topic. In addition to assessment, the secretariat conducted several activities, which aim to strengthen the institutional frameworks for trade and investment in mineral resources, as well as for more environmentally sound policies for mineral resource development.
56. In the area of space technology applications, a major activity was the Second Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, held in New Delhi in November 1999. During this Conference, delegations reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening space applications in the region. The Conference adopted the Delhi Declaration on Space Applications in Asia and the Pacific for Improved Quality of Life in the New Millennium, which launched the second phase of the Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development (RESAP II). It acknowledged the significant progress achieved since the first Ministerial Conference held in Beijing in 1994, and commended the instrumental role played by ESCAP and RESAP in the realization of those achievements.
57. The secretariat continued to service the three-tiered regional network on space applications, which is comprised of the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee (ICC), four regional working groups, and the Regional Information Service and Education and Training Network. A large number of capacity-building activities were conducted, ranging from fellowships, pilot projects, seminars, studies on issues of common regional interest, and steps taken towards harmonizing various regional initiatives. At the fourth session of ICC on RESAP, held at Cebu, Philippines in 1998, ICC noted with satisfaction the progress made at the national level. In particular, the development of related policies and efforts at institutional restructuring at the national level were seen to have contributed to an increase in the number of space-related activities at the national and regional levels.
58. In the area of natural disasters, a regional meeting for Asia on risk reduction and society in the twenty-first century was organized jointly by the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction and ESCAP and held at Bangkok in February 1999. The Meeting reviewed the accomplishments in the region during the International Decade and formulated recommendations for future efforts to ensure continued commitment to disaster prevention throughout Asia during the next millennium. The Bangkok Declaration adopted at the end of the regional meeting underscored the need to integrate mitigation and prevention practices into national development and planning processes. Work continued to promote the integration of geologic information for land-use and urban planning, which could help mitigate the seriousness of the effects of natural disasters such as earthquakes.
59. Information on activities under the subprogramme were more widely disseminated through the ESCAP Web site. The site pertaining to the subprogramme was restructured and made more consistent; a number of publications were modified for posting on the Web site; and a system for responding to email inquiries was established.
60. A number of new or improved modalities were introduced for training activities. For example, a two-phase training approach was introduced whereby after conducting an initial training, the expert would return later to assess the work of the trainees and offer further guidance. The secretariat conducted several short-term courses for technical training in the use of GIS, and assisted three countries in arranging medium (3 month) to longer term (up to 12 months) training programmes through the TCDC framework.
61. As was demonstrated by several joint activities, there is great potential and benefits to be gained from working with other United Nations entities. The ECE/ESCAP Seminar on the United Nations Framework Classification for Reserves/Resources of Sold Fuels and Mineral Commodities was one of the first collaborative efforts between two regional commissions in the area of natural resources management. Participation by other entities in ESCAP activities, as well as participation by ESCAP staff in the activities of other entities, increased in frequency. The three subcommittees of Regional Inter-agency Committee for Asia and the Pacific (RICAP) relating respectively to environment, water and space applications have resulted in increased exchange of information and the formulation of joint projects.
Subprogramme 5: Poverty alleviation: social development
(Implemented by: Social Policy Section, Disadvantaged Groups Section and Human Resources Development Section of Social Development Division)
62. Based on the feedback from evaluation forms as well as observation of the impact of the projects implemented by the secretariat at the regional, subregional, national and local levels, the following benefits were realized:
63. National government focal points on social development responded positively to the work of the secretariat. This can be seen in the increasing number of contacts with the secretariat in areas related to the ongoing activities pertaining to the subprogramme. It can also be seen in the pursuance of national action on the implementation of regional mandates developed with the involvement of the secretariat. The assessment by the primary users, including governmental and intergovernmental bodies, of ESCAP social development and human resources development services has been generally positive. The most significant recommendations made were the need for activities to add value to ongoing work being carried out by other organizations and agencies as well as the need to ensure high visibility of activities not only at the regional but also at the national levels. Where there has been visibility, for example at the national and local levels, this should be emulated and further continued. Initiatives taken to elicit feedback from users of services include evaluation of meetings/training courses, and publications and feedback from users of the social development Web sites. The feedback received from evaluation questionnaires and readership surveys was generally positive. The evaluations underlined that the pioneering approaches by ESCAP for multisectoral collaboration to promote the inclusion of marginalized social groups in mainstream development policies and programmes were particularly appreciated. Furthermore, there has been an increase in demand for ESCAP assistance in promoting the inclusion of marginalized social groups (disabled persons, youth and older persons) in development processes, and for provision of HRD training programmes to strengthen the skills for poverty alleviation personnel as well as capacity-building programmes for delivery of non-formal education.
Subprogramme 6: Poverty alleviation: rural and urban development
(Implemented by: Population and Rural and Urban Development Division - Rural Development Section and Human Settlements Section; and Social Development Division - Women in Development Section)
64. The benefits accrued from the activities could mainly be categorized as (a) innovative activity to create additional income to the rural and urban poor, particularly to the female-headed households, (b) support for the policies of poverty alleviation and gender equity through policy analysis, (c) advocacy of rural and urban poverty alleviation and gender equity through human resources development and information dissemination. The impacts on the clientele were manifested through increased incomes at the household levels and implementation of new plans and programmes in favour of the poor and women.
65. During the biennium, in the field of rural poverty alleviation, activities directly related to poverty alleviation and sustainable agricultural and rural development were implemented. Studies, expert groups, national and regional meetings assisted national capability-building to alleviate rural poverty under economic adjustments, sustainable food production, income generation and consumer protection, integrated pest management in rural poverty alleviation, strengthening linkages between rural credit, agricultural extension and marketing (for Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka), and income-generating opportunities for rural women in the Central Asian republics. Activities on rural poverty alleviation through market-generated rural employment promotion at the village level were implemented in eight developing countries. The income of the target poor was enhanced and such promotion was established as a cost effective tool for rural employment promotion. The regional evaluation seminar held at Chiang Mai, Thailand affirmed the efficacy of such promotion.
66. The promotion of integrated pest management and environmentally friendly farming in rural poverty alleviation was initiated. Activities on the use of chemical fertilizers were pursued through the development of country specific strategies on environmentally sound use of fertilizer; development of guidelines for promoting the liberalization of fertilizer markets; and adaptation of the FADINAP agro-chemical information system to modern communication technology. A programme on development of an Integrated Plant Nutrition System (IPNS) and studies on the progress of fertilizer market liberalization were under way. A FADINAP training programme on the Internet and Web site development was effective in the development of national fertilizer information Web sites in six participating countries. Those sites are now accessible on the Internet.
67. Most activities related to human settlements targeted local governments and local government officials. One of the major accomplishments was the establishment of the Network of Local Government Training and Research Institutes in Asia and the Pacific (LOGOTRI) as a means to strengthen the capacities of local governments. The network now includes 12 countries in the region and has its own member-financed independent secretariat. ESCAP provided technical support and advice related to upgrading teaching curricula, introduction of information technology-based training methods, and adoption of quality standards (ISO 9000) to the members of the Network. Members of the Network decide what activities they want LOGOTRI to undertake. Activities are organized on a TCDC basis, where the host institute bears all local costs, while ESCAP and LOGOTRI bear international trade costs. The first Training of Trainers Workshop on Innovative Training Methodologies for Training Local Government Officials was hosted by the China Training Center for Senior Civil Servants and LOGOTRI members from China, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and the United States participated in the workshop. The second Training of Trainers Workshop on Strategic Management for Local Governments was held at Kathmandu and was hosted by the Local Development Training Academy. Participants were from China, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Australia. Participants regarded those workshops as very relevant to their work. The third workshop on Municipal Finance was conducted over the Internet by ESCAP, UNCHS, the Urban Management Centre of the Asian Institute of Technology and Cardiff University using the Virtual Policy Studio System (VPS). VPS enables LOGOTRI to train staff of member institutes on-line, without their leaving their offices, thus eliminating travel expenditures and allowing participants time to assimilate knowledge gained in their own context. LOGOTRI will introduce additional training programmes on the VPS as more institutes, particularly those of the least developed countries get on-line.
68. A number of activities were initiated and implemented on women and the economy in a changing global environment, women in small businesses, women and poverty, violence against women and trafficking of women and children, human rights of women and working with national machineries and other institutional machineries, NGOs and the media for advancing the status of women, in accordance with the Jakarta Declaration and Plan of Action and Beijing Platform for Action. A regional meeting on the impact of globalization on women provided an opportunity to share recent experiences on the needs of women. Further to the Plan of Action for Promoting Women in Small Businesses in Indo-China, TCDC activities were conducted between Indo-Chinese countries and the Philippines (training workshop) and the Republic of Korea (trade fair). The Plan of Action is being used for developing projects by other agencies such as ILO and OXFAM. A regional meeting on the empowerment of women in poverty, held in Dhaka in collaboration with Grameen Bank, provided a model action plan to alleviate the growing feminization of poverty in the Asian and Pacific region. A regional action plan for the alleviation of the feminization of poverty was adopted at the meeting. It laid the foundation for approaching the rights of poor women as human rights. Various grass-roots communities benefited from a project on the promotion of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women through NGO networks in the Pacific. The Regional Conference on Trafficking in Women, held at Bangkok, set a good example of inter-organizational collaboration. The Conference adopted the Bangkok Accord and a plan of action. Gender mainstreaming in all aspects of United Nations policies and operations has become a top priority. A high-level intergovernmental meeting, held at Bangkok, to review the implementation of the Jakarta Declaration and Plan of Action and the regional implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, became a milestone for accelerating the regional implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and set a model for the global review. The meeting committed the members and associate members of ESCAP to the fundamental principle that the political/economic empowerment of women, following a rights-based approach and specific strategies, offered a cornerstone for the further empowerment of women.
69. Efforts continued to promote the exchange of experience and disseminate information on rural poverty alleviation, human settlements and women in development. An agro-chemicals homepage and the Web site on rural development and FADINAP, human settlements and women in development have been fully operational and have advanced to one of the most visited sites.
Subprogramme 7: Poverty alleviation: population and development
(Implemented by: Population and Rural and Urban Development Division - Population and Development Section and Population Information and Communication Unit)
70. A high-level meeting, attended by senior policy makers from the region, reviewed the implementation of both the Bali Declaration on Population and Sustainable Development, adopted at the Fourth Asian and Pacific Population Conference in 1992, and the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. The meeting identified key future actions that needed to be undertaken in order to meet the objective of recommendations contained in the Bali Declaration and the Programme of Action. An external evaluation of the subprogramme commended the careful selection of participants and thorough preparation of documentation prior to the meeting, which contributed to its success.
71. A technical publication on strengthening performance monitoring and evaluation for reproductive health and family planning programmes was under preparation for dissemination to population programme managers in the region. The project on that subject generated much interest among the reproductive health programmes in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in Myanmar which joined the project with funding from their own sources.
72. The several workshops and training courses conducted during the biennium generally received very good ratings from the participants. To maximize the benefits from training courses, the contents of the courses were redesigned based on feedback from the trainees. Many training courses covering various topics such as information management, repackaging and information technology, enabled more information centres in the ESCAP region to disseminate their population data and information through various means including the World Wide Web (WWW). A study on the impact of various training courses on information centres in the region will be carried out in 2000, subject to the availability of funds.
73. Many technical assistance missions were carried out at the request of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and national counterparts in the region. These missions were evaluated by the receiving government agencies and by the UNFPA field office. The usefulness of these missions was generally rated high, as indicated by the higher than expected number of requests received during the biennium.
74. Through a readership survey carried out at the end of 1997 on two publications, Asia-Pacific Population Journal and Population Headliners, the target audiences (mainly researchers and policy makers) responded that the publications were used for research purposes and to keep themselves up-to-date with the population and development issues in the region. The actual usage of the Journal was evident from the numerous researchers citing Journal articles as references for their research, indicating that these products were used in generating new knowledge.
75. The impact of this subprogramme could be seen in the adoption by governments of countries in the region of population and development policies and programmes promoted by ESCAP through its publications.
76. An external review was conducted in 1999 of eight projects funded by UNFPA and executed by ESCAP from 1996 to 1998. The review was funded by UNFPA and carried out by three population specialists who visited Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Viet Nam, and prepared a detailed report of their findings, including main observations and recommendations. The evaluation team noted, inter alia, that ESCAP has a comparative advantage in its regional coverage and intergovernmental machinery. It provides a well-placed forum to conduct regional meetings of senior policy makers in order to exchange experience and to prepare for and follow up on global conferences.
77. The external evaluation team noted that analysis of demographic data on gender and development was valuable and should be extended to Pacific island countries and those in Central Asia. It also observed that population ageing is or will become a critical development issue in many countries over the next quarter century and recommended that ESCAP continue to conduct comparative studies of the demographic trends and policy responses.
78. The external evaluation team also recommended that ESCAP should concentrate on increasing in-country capacity in the population field. In that regard, it would be important to work closely with the country programmes, with the country offices of specialized agencies, and with the donors in collaborative programme planning and implementation, in the execution of training programmes and in identifying appropriate candidates. To implement the recommendation, invitations to training programmes have been sent to UNFPA country offices seeking their collaboration in nominating appropriate candidates.
79. Among other areas, the external evaluation team recommended that with the forthcoming availability of the 2000 round of population census results, analytical skills could be developed and strengthened at the country level through the secretariatís inter-divisional efforts. For example, definitions of urban and rural areas could be reviewed and more appropriate ones tested using census data. The census and survey data could be analysed on a cross-country basis and the results repackaged and disseminated to policy makers through the collaborative efforts of ESCAP and UNESCO PROAP information programmes and services. To implement that recommendation, the Workshop on Repackaging of Population Data and Information, held at Bangkok in August 1999, chose "Repackaging of the year 2000 round of census data" as the theme for the training course.
80. On population information, the external evaluation team recommended that advanced information technology, such as the Internet, CD-ROM and multimedia, should be utilized as much as possible for cost-effective data and information collection, processing and dissemination, and in providing information services and products. In addition, efforts should be made to improve the national capacities in this regard. To implement this recommendation, the ESCAP Population Web site on the Internet was reorganized at the end of 1998 and more full-text data and information, including the ESCAP Population Data Sheet, Journal articles and papers presented at the regional ICPD+5 preparatory meeting were mounted on the Web. By mid-1999, directory databases were mounted and a search engine was introduced for the Journal pages to help users to find information more easily. The Population Web site is one of the most frequently visited sites among various Web sites of the secretariat. For those countries where telecommunications infrastructure is weak, information contained on the Population Web site will be distributed in CD-ROM form in early 2000. To improve the national capacities in this regard, five training courses were organized during the period 1998-1999 including two on information technology at the regional level and two at the subregional level, and one on using information technology for repackaging purposes.
Subprogramme 8: Transport and communications
(Implemented by: Transport, Communications, Tourism and Infrastructure Development Division)
81. The pilot project on an integrated approach to sustainable transport development in the Rattanakosin area of Bangkok contributed significantly towards increasing the awareness of senior policy makers and the capacity of administration staff of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration who received training. Requests have been received from Nepal, the Philippines and Viet Nam for seminars on the benefits of an integrated approach.
82. The formulation of the networks of the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway is expected to be completed in the beginning of the new millennium. Towards this goal, countries were provided with practical guidelines on routes, networks and technical standards and requirements for the development of national highway and railway routes of international importance as well as for the improvement of their operational efficiency. The identified the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway routes and networks were gradually being included in national and subregional plans and programmes. A major achievement was the ongoing construction of the railway lines from Bahgh to Mashad and Kerman-Zahehan in the Islamic Republic of Iran. At the subregional-level, Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks constituted the basis for road and rail networks in, for example, ASEAN, ECO and SAARC subregions as well as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Greater Mekong Subregion. ASEAN initiated the formulation of its highway network as well as a feasibility study on a railway line connecting Singapore and Kunming, China as a follow-up to the ESCAP study on Trans-Asian Railway development in the Indo-China and ASEAN subregion completed in 1996. Another important initiative taken by the secretariat was the identification of the Asian Highway network in Turkey, which would pave the way for the eventual integration of Turkey into the regional network.
83. Following the organization of national seminars on the benefits of accession to the conventions listed in ESCAP resolution 48/11, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam had the conventions translated into their national language. Simultaneously, national transport facilitation committees were established in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Thailand, and a similar measure was being considered in Myanmar and Viet Nam. As a complementary measure, a trilateral agreement on cross-border movements of goods and people was signed between the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam in November 1999. It is anticipated that the drafting of the relevant annexes and protocols will be based upon the conventions listed in resolution 48/11, wherever applicable. At the subregional-level, the Project Working Group on Transport and Border-crossing within the framework of SPECA recommended that national committees for the facilitation of international traffic should be established in SPECA member countries, while ECO was calling on its members to accede to all conventions by the year 2000.
84. At the regional seminar held at Dhaka, participating railway organizations of the region found that the computerized railway information control system (RAILWICS), jointly implemented by ESCAP and UNCTAD for Bangladesh Railway, had the potential to serve as a very useful tool for improving the productivity and quality of railway services.
85. The country-level workshops on the development of shipping policies produced tangible results in improving the shipping policies being developed in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand. The secretariat's work in the field of freight forwarding contributed to increasing the awareness of governments and the industry of the need to ensure the smooth flow of goods and the specific requirements for progressing from a traditional freight forwarder to a multimodal transport operator. The secretariat also contributed to human resources development in multimodal transport through the provision of advisory services to Indonesia, and resource persons for the country-level workshops in Bangladesh.
86. Following national workshops on road management and financing held at Dhaka and Colombo, a draft action plan on road maintenance reform was adopted by Bangladesh and a task force was set up to see to its implementation. Similar follow up is under way in Sri Lanka.
87. The ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit was signed in December 1998. ESCAP and ECE have been requested to assist in developing a protocol to the Agreement on the transport of dangerous goods.
88. A training manual developed under the UNDP/ESCAP pilot project on participatory planning of rural infrastructure in the Lao People's Democratic Republic is being used in a broader context of the ILO integrated rural accessibility planning project. The draft national action plans on participatory planning of rural infrastructure presented at the regional seminar-cum-cluster country meeting in New Delhi were finalized and, subject to the availability of funds, assistance in replicating the process will be provided. The process adopted in the project was now being used in other provinces of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The participatory approach in the policy formulation process used in a pilot project on the integration of non-motorized transport into the urban transport system of Dhaka was adopted by Dhaka City Corporation to develop the non-motorized transport planning component of phase II of the Dhaka Urban Transport Project for the Banani area of Dhaka. The project is being implemented with financial support from the World Bank.
89. The Committee on Transport, Communications, Tourism and Infrastructure Development, at its second session, endorsed the recommendations of the ESCAP/UNDP/UNAIDS Workshop on Reduction of HIV/AIDS Vulnerability within the Transport Sector: Towards a Strategic Planning and Policy Framework, held in Bangkok. The Asian Institute of Transport Development in New Delhi offered to host a similar meeting for the SAARC countries in 2000.
90. Three countries have offered to act as regional/subregional focal points for MARINET. Seventeen countries now have access to MARINET software. The ESCAP Web site for the New Delhi Action Plan attracted international interest. In the first half of 1999, there over 1,200 visits to the Web site relating to the country reports on infrastructure development.
91. The Seminar on Developing Ecotourism in the Asian Region, held at Bangkok, and the Seminar on Ecotourism Development, held at Hanoi, recommended practical actions at the national and regional levels in pursuit of ecotourism. The Seminar on Facilitation of Travel, held at Phuket, Thailand, yielded concrete results, as evidenced by a number of important initiatives being taken by member countries to facilitate travel. Three meetings of the Working Group of the Greater Mekong Subregion Tourism Sector were convened at Kunming, Yangon and Vientiane. Two seminars were held at Vientiane in July 1999, namely, the seminar on tourism promotion in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which contributed to strengthening national capabilities in approaching major travel markets, and the seminar on expansion of tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion through improved air transport, which adopted recommendations related to improved air transport. The Seminar on Sustainable Tourism Development, held at Phnom Penh, contributed to strengthening national capabilities in formulating integrated tourism policies. The secretariat made special efforts to promote regional cooperation in tourism education and training through activities of the Network of Asia-Pacific Education and Training Institutes in Tourism (APETIT) established by ESCAP in 1997. A mission to Bangladesh advised the Government on the development of the exclusive tourism zone. All tourism-related activities were implemented within the framework of the Plan of Action for Sustainable Tourism Development in the Asian and Pacific region, adopted by the Commission, at its fifty-fifth session in 1999.
92. Since its adoption in October 1996, biannual reviews of the New Delhi Action Plan have enabled the secretariat to review and refine the Plan to ensure its continued relevance of changing conditions in the region.
Subprogramme 9: Statistics
(Implemented by: Statistics Division)
93. The Committee on Statistics, at its eleventh session, decided to review all its recommendations after a maximum period of four years with a view to their revalidation, reformulation or suppression. It recognized that one of its important functions was to generate consensus on policy-oriented issues which could also serve as input to international forums such as the United Nations Statistical Commission, and took the first steps towards operationalizing that function. The Working Group of Statistical Experts, at its eleventh session, discussed a wide range of issues of contemporary concern to national statistical offices, and prioritized the secretariat's work areas for the biennium 2000-2001. It also held an open forum on the topic of Performance Indicators for National Statistical Offices.
94. The secretariat continued to produce its regular statistical publications, including: Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific, Foreign Trade Statistics of Asia and the Pacific, Statistical Indicators for Asia and the Pacific, and Asia-Pacific in Figures. While readership surveys generally evaluated the publications highly, an in-house study on improving the quality and coverage of the regular publications was actively pursued. The Statistics Web pages, included in the ESCAP site on the Internet, were enhanced with new sections on public sector computerization and statistical data for Asia and the Pacific.
95. By responding to the concerns expressed by the Working Group of Statistical Experts in late 1997 about the year 2000 problem, the subprogramme was adjusted to accommodate regional Year 2000 (Y2K) awareness creation activities. The Y2K problem in computers was the topic for a seminar jointly organized by ESCAP and SIAP at Bangkok in June 1998. These and other Y2K awareness creation activities during 1998 and early 1999, tangibly contributed to raising the level of preparedness in the region. The Commission, at its fifty-fifth session, adopted Resolution 55/3 entitled Strengthening the cooperation and support of nations in the Asian and Pacific region in addressing the year 2000 problem. The secretariat was however unable to mobilize the extrabudgetary funds required to implement the resolution.
96. ESCAP and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) jointly organized a workshop on "The 1993 SNA -- Five years on", which focused on an exchange of experience between statisticians in OECD and ESCAP countries in the implementation of the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA). Another workshop on the implementation of the 1993 SNA, jointly organized by ESCAP and the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) succeeded in assisting countries in implementing the 1993 System of National Accounts through discussion of various elements embodied in the SNA, assessment of data requirements and means to bridge data gaps, and development of a work programme (1998-2003) to implement the 1993 SNA by phases.
97. ESCAP/UNSD training seminar on international merchandise trade statistics provided participants with a detailed presentation of the contents and recommendations of the second revision of the International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS Rev.2) Concepts and Definitions. Furthermore, useful discussions and clarifications on the practical applications of the concepts and definitions took place. ESCAP and UNSD also collaborated in the organization of an inter-regional training workshop for participants from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The workshop provided training to trainers on the essentials required to administer, operate and maintain accurate civil registration and vital statistics systems. A workshop on classifications, jointly convened by UNSD, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and ESCAP, allowed participants to explore and promote the possibilities of intra-regional cooperation in this field.
98. A regional seminar on poverty statistics exposed participants to a review of the availability and development of statistical data and methodology relating to the measurement of poverty. The participants considered the seminar helped to clarify the concepts and methodology for poverty estimates and poverty alleviation analysis. The possible replication of approaches adopted by countries in identifying poverty groups at the local area level was particularly noted.
99. A regional seminar on application of information technology in national statistical offices, jointly organized by ESCAP and the National Statistical Office of the Republic of Korea, dealt with the status of information technology in national statistical offices; derivation of full benefits from information technology; networking solutions; and evolving data collection techniques and technologies. The recommendations of the seminar included that the IT department should formulate a set of "best practice" policies applicable to their organization.
100. An international seminar on time-use studies was jointly organized with the Center for Development Alternatives and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation of the Government of India at Ahmedabad in December 1999. It provided an opportunity to respond to the recommendation of the Beijing Platform of Action for improving the measurement of contribution by women and men to the economy through the measurement of unpaid work. The Seminar broke new ground in systematically examining time use surveys undertaken in developing countries, and highlighted the need for general guidelines in this area. Under the same UNDP project, the Regional Resource Group on Integrating Paid and Unpaid Work was formed, and met twice in 1999.
101. Similar to the eleventh session of the Committee on Statistics, the number of participants and countries/areas represented in the group training activities under this subprogramme were consistently high. In a number of cases, the participation was self-financed, indicating the strong interest in training activities of ESCAP.
102. Two projects concerning gender statistics entered their final stages; several new profiles on women were released, for India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka. The related regional publication Women and Men in the ESCAP Region was also released. All the publications were in great demand from readers.
Subprogramme 10: Least developed, landlocked and island developing countries
(Implemented by: Development Research and Policy Analysis Division and ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre)
103. The attention of policy makers to the development trends in and emerging problems confronted by the least developed, landlocked and Pacific island developing countries was drawn through the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 1999. The Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries, at its fifth session, adopted a number of policy recommendations with respect to youth employment and financial sector reforms. The fourth session of the Special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries considered the issues of effective utilization of development assistance and multi-agency integrated initiatives for the development of exports and endorsed the recommendations prepared by the secretariat on these issues.
104. A number of extrabudgetary projects were implemented during biennium 1998-1999 with a view to improving policy formulation and enhancing technical skills of public officials. Under the project on options for exchange rate policy in the least developed countries, the various factors to consider in formulating exchange rate policies in South and South-East Asian least developed countries were identified and disseminated among senior central bank and ministry of finance officials, and representatives of chambers of commerce. The regional seminar in Bangkok stressed the need to strengthen administrative capacity through greater institutional technical cooperation among monetary authorities. As a follow-up to the seminar, the secretariat organized a training visit for central bank officials of South and South-East Asian least developed countries at the Bank of Thailand. In the evaluation of the training visit, the participants noted that the experiences of the Bank of Thailand would be useful in their policy planning and implementation.
105. In preparation for the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, the secretariat initiated a number of studies with a focus on four major themes: finance for development, social issues, external trade performance and economic infrastructure. These studies will assist the least developed countries of the region in drawing the attention of the international community to their particular needs and concerns. The results of the studies will be published in the biennium 2000-2001.
106. A seminar on potentials for establishing growth zones encompassing Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal was held at Dhaka in September 1999. During the seminar, the background and rationale for establishing growth zones, the complementarity of resources among participating countries, and the required policy measures and institutional arrangements were discussed. A national workshop on enhancing efficiency in external aid utilization in Bangladesh was also held at Dhaka in December 1998, to disseminate the major findings and conclusions from this project to Government officials. To improve skills in macroeconomic policy coordination and related institution-building in least developed countries, a study tour of selected officials to the Republic of Korea was organized.
107. Work for the Pacific island countries supported the efforts of these countries in the areas of trade and investment, sustainable development, financial sector reform and social affairs. A paper entitled "Examples of sound practices by countries in the areas of investment promotion and facilitation" was presented at the Meeting of Heads of Pacific Investment Promotion Agencies, organized by the Forum Secretariat in Fiji in July 1998. Lessons of experience from Malaysia in the use of information technology in facilitating trade and investment in Pacific island countries were presented at a workshop of senior officials in Nadi in November 1999. The ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre implemented many substantive activities for the benefit of these countries through policy advice and training.
108. Informal consultations between the Executive Secretary and delegations from the least developed and Pacific island developing countries as well as the countries with economies in transition, held during the annual sessions of the Commission, provided a forum for external review of the ongoing activities by the secretariat as well as for identification of priority areas for future activities.