Background

The Chair recalled that CEB, at its second regular session for 2011, had been briefed by the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the implications for the work of the United Nations system of a world of 7 billion people, focusing on challenges and opportunities for poverty reduction, sustainability and equity. The Board had agreed to his proposal for detailed work to be carried out by the High-level Committee on Programmes, under the leadership of UNFPA, which would prepare an issues paper for consideration by the Committee at its twenty-third session.

At its twenty-second session, the Committee had an exchange of views on the content of the issues paper and the way forward. The Committee requested UNFPA to review its proposal and submit the terms of reference for an inter-agency working group tasked with producing a position paper on behalf of the Committee on mainstreaming population dynamics across the United Nations system, with greater specificity in terms of deliverables. A final position paper will be submitted through the Committee for approval by CEB at its first regular session in 2013.

The Committee was briefed by Ralph Hakkert, Technical Adviser, UNFPA Population and Development Branch, on the terms of reference of the inter-agency working group. In his introduction, Mr. Hakkert stressed that the challenges posed by demographic transformations required joint and concerted efforts by the United Nations system, particularly in the diverse areas of comparative advantage and core activities of organizations. A common forward-looking vision that took challenges fully into account would be an important contribution to the post-2015 development framework.

In that connection, he hoped that members would focus on contributing to the formulation of recommendations to the post-2015 development agenda, based on a more elaborate reflection of population dynamics and their implications for sustainable development. He also hoped that members would ensure that the recommendations put forward and the population perspective that motivated them would become an analytical and programmatic lens through which the United Nations system would see its ongoing normative and operational work. To that end, the proposed ad hoc inter-agency working group would develop a framework and an action plan, including a set of tools and knowledge-sharing platforms, to build the capacity of the system as a whole to integrate population dynamics in its work at all levels, including global strategic planning and policies, country programming and project-level activities.

The Committee was informed of the priority issues to be considered by the ad hoc working group, which were included in its terms of reference (see annex IV to the present report). The group would be self-served, with UNFPA taking secretarial responsibilities. In addition to the first report due by March 2013, the group was expected to produce two additional reports by June and October 2013, which would reassess the priorities and operational modalities based on the global survey and International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014 process and reflections from the emerging post-2015 development agenda.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, participants thanked UNFPA for carrying the work forward on behalf of the Committee. They noted that as the world population continued to rise, the United Nations system would need to ensure a balance among the interests of different groups. Given demographic trends, questions of equity, dependency, intergenerational solidarity and how the United Nations system would help address the interests of diverse groups would grow in importance in coming years. The need to ensure that society reflected the important principles of inclusivity, social protection, intergenerational care and burden-sharing, and that it balanced the interests of children and older persons, was also noted.

In addition, participants emphasized the need to link the work of the ad hoc working group to ongoing processes on priorities such as HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases and broader health-related issues, food production and nutrition, refugees, internally displaced persons and the human rights of migrant workers in the context of internal and international migration, the competition for land and water, the global financial and economic crisis and the centrality of the world of work. Participants also highlighted the need to ensure linkage with the work of the United Nations Development Group.

Some participants highlighted the difficulty of advocating for older persons given that no single United Nations entity was mandated to work on their behalf. To that end, members noted that issues related to older persons should not be grouped together with youth issues, given the significant gap in the normative work and the rising trend of ageism. There was a need to focus on the situation of older persons as rights holders and as contributors to society.

In relation to the task of defining objectives for the United Nations system in each of the priority areas identified in the terms of reference of the ad hoc working group, participants expressed their expectation that the group would focus on making recommendations given the various policy-formulating processes already under way within the system. The challenge was for the group to ensure prioritization of the key issues. In relation to the timeline for completion of the group’s work, participants noted the significant objectives to be accomplished by the group. They concurred that it was important for the group to focus on the scope of its work as requested by the Committee.

Action

The Committee, taking into account the comments made, endorsed the terms of reference of the inter-agency working group, including its composition and work plan (see annex IV to the present report). The group would be open to all member organizations of the Committee.