Background

The Committee recalled that the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) briefed the CEB at its fall 2011 session, on the implications for the work of the UN system of a world of seven billion people, focusing on challenges and opportunities for poverty reduction, sustainability and equity. The Board agreed to his proposal that detailed work be carried out by HLCP under the leadership of UNFPA, which would prepare an issues paper for consideration by the Committee at its current session. HLCP had an exchange of views on the content of the issues paper and discussed the way forward.

Introducing the Issues Note, Mr. Mabingue Ngom, Director, Programme Division, and Mr. Ralph Hakkert, Technical Advisor on Data and Research of the Technical Division of UNFPA, noted that the recent passage of the seven billion world population milestone provided impetus to reflect on world population dynamics and their implications for sustainable development. The Issues Note set out a proposed initiative that envisaged, inter alia, the establishment of an inter-agency working group under HLCP to undertake a more detailed assessment of the demands that population trends would place on the achievement of common development goals. The work would also include a stock-taking of the contributions of the UN system to addressing the projected trends as well as the identification of associated challenges and opportunities for further action. The assessment was expected to result in a draft position paper to be reviewed by HLCP at its 24th Session.

In addition to the proposed inter-agency process, Mr Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of UN-DESA, suggested the establishment, through HLCP, of an open-ended technical network to respond to the invitation from the General Assembly for the UN system and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to contribute to the 2013 General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. The open-ended technical network would comprise members of the Global Migration Group (GMG), as well as all other entities of the UN system that had an interest in contributing to the High-level Dialogue. UN-DESA offered to serve as the secretariat of this network, which would be co-chaired by UNFPA and IOM.

Discussion

HLCP members thanked UNFPA for its efforts and welcomed the Issues Note. Participants agreed that the gravity of a world in which increased population dynamics posed immeasurable challenges also opened up new opportunities for the UN system in its various mandated approaches. Organizations of the system needed to reflect on the impact of current and future population dynamics on the world and, by extension, their mandated activities. The proposed processes, which were meant to ensure coherence and unity of purpose of the UN system around population dynamics still required further clarification, however, and would need sufficient time to garner institutional support from member organizations of HLCP.

Participants further noted that it would be useful to clarify the role of the two proposals in relation to processes currently underway within the UN system. In this regard, it was crucial to ensure synergies with the preparatory work of the UN system in the context of the post-2015 development framework. Participants stressed in this connection that population considerations needed to be an integral part of any future framework from the start. In taking this work forward, due regard should be paid to human rights concerns, particularly those of older persons. Similarly, issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as educational systems for youth were mentioned as relevant to population issues and needed to be sufficiently reflected in the Note.

Participants urged the concurrence of the Principals of the GMG on how the open-ended technical network would build on and leverage its resources, and avoid a duplication of functions. While the proposed processes intended to ensure coherence and unity of purpose of the UN system around population dynamics, participants noted that they still required further reflection and would need sufficient time to garner institutional support from member organizations of HLCP. The need to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach to both issues, taking into account the wider context of a world at seven billion was also highlighted. These views notwithstanding, HLCP members looked forward to participating in and contributing to all efforts to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach.

In response to some of the issues raised during the discussion, it was clarified that the two proposals differed in both objectives and scope, in spite of some partial overlap. Whereas the migration proposal sought to make a direct contribution to a specific process, namely the 2013 General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the seven billion proposal sought to promote a common long-term vision of the agencies on a variety of population issues, which included migration but also several others. Therefore, both proposals should be taken forward in a coordinated but separate way leading up to the 2013 General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and the 2014 General Assembly Special Session on Beyond the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Action

HLCP requested UNFPA to review its proposal and submit for consideration by the HLCP at its 24th session, the Terms of Reference of an inter-agency working group tasked with producing an HLCP position paper on mainstreaming population dynamics across the UN system, with greater specificity in terms of deliverables. A final position paper could be submitted through HLCP for the approval of CEB at its spring 2013 session.

Given the need for a system-wide preparation for the 2013 General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the Committee recommended the establishment of a time bound Ad-hoc High-Level Working Group on International Migration and Development, under HLCP, co-chaired by UNFPA and IOM, with secretarial support from UN-DESA. Following consultations with GMG, the The Ad-hoc High-Level Working Group would convene all relevant programmes, funds and specialized agencies to develop a set of outcomes and actions for the consideration at the 2013 General Assembly High-Level Dialogue, including assessing the lessons learned since the 2006 General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in responding to the opportunities and challenges of international migration and in building collaboration and partnerships. The set of outcomes and actions will be submitted through HLCP for the approval of CEB at its spring 2013 session.