Report of the Committee of Experts

A. Attendance

1. The twenty-fifth meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Conference African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 10 to 13 May 2006. Mr. O.O.O Ogunkua, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who chaired the opening session, made some brief welcoming remarks. This was followed by opening statements delivered by Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Mr. Seydou Bouda, Minister of Economy and Development of Burkina Faso, who opened the meeting.

2. The meeting was attended by representatives of the following member States: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

3. The representative of the African Union also took part in the deliberations of the Committee.

4. The following United Nations bodies and specialized agencies were also represented: International Labour Organization (ILO); International Monetary Fund (IMF); Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); World Bank (WB); World Food Programme (WFP); and World Health Organization (WHO).

5. Observers were present from the following organizations: African Centre for Applied Research and Training in Social Development (ACARTSOD); Banque de Developpement des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale (BDEAC); Banque Ouest Africaine de Developpement (BOAD); Central African Economic and Monitoring Community (CEMAC); Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) and Union économique et monétaire ouest africaine (UEMOA).

B. Adoption of the Agenda and Election of the Bureau

6. The Committee adopted the following agenda.

1. Opening of the Meeting

2. Election of the Bureau

3. Adoption of the Draft Agenda and Draft Programme of Work

4. Presentation and discussion of the Survey of economic and social conditions in Africa 2005 and prospects for 2006

5. Presentation and discussion on the theme of the Conference - Meeting the challenge of employment in Africa

6. Presentation and discussion of the Report on Progress in Aligning Poverty Reduction Strategies with the Millennium Development Goals

7. Statutory Issues:

  • Consideration of the Annual Report on the work of the Commission, 2006

  • ECA's response to the 2005 World Summit Outcome

  • Other issues

8. Any other business

9. Consideration and adoption of the Report of the Committee of Experts and draft resolutions

10. Closing of the meeting

7. The programme of work was approved with a recommendation to address the key developmental and cross-cutting issues raised by the Executive Secretary of ECA and the Minister of Finance of Nigeria in their opening statements.

Election of the Bureau

8. The following Officers were unanimously elected by the Committee to form the new Bureau:

Chairperson: Burkina Faso

First Vice-Chairperson: Republic of Congo

Second Vice-Chairperson: Libya

Third Vice-Chairperson: Burundi

Rapporteur: Kingdom of Swaziland

C. Account of Proceedings

Opening addresses

9. In his capacity as Chairperson of the outgoing Bureau, Mr. O.O.O Ogunkua, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria extended a warm welcome to those attending the session, and expressed his appreciation to the Government and People of Burkina Faso for hosting the meeting. On behalf of the Government of Nigeria, he congratulated Mr. Abdoulie Janneh on his recent appointment as Executive Secretary of ECA, and assured him of the Committee's cooperation and support in his new assignment.

10. Turning to the theme of the Conference, Mr. Ogunkua noted that despite Africa's relatively strong economic growth performance of many African countries in 2005, growth in employment creation and poverty reduction had not shown a commensurate improvement. Indeed, the level of poverty had increased in recent years, driven in part by high population growth rates and the very narrow base of recent growth, concentrated as it has been in the extractive sector. Mr. Ogunkua also attributed the poor employment performance of many African countries to weak reflection of employment issues in the poverty reduction strategies and other national development plans. He, therefore, challenged the Committee to be innovative and bold in proposing measures for addressing the issues of employment creation and poverty reduction, as these would be critical to progress towards the MDGs and the goals of NEPAD.

11. In his opening statement to the meeting, the Executive Secretary of ECA, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, expressed his deepest gratitude and appreciation to the Government and people of Burkina Faso for hosting this year's Conference of Ministers. He said he looked forward to having productive and meaningful interactions with the Committee and the Ministers over the next few days on how best the ECA secretariat could assist its member States in defining priorities and designing policies that will help them achieve the MDGs and improve the quality of life of their people.

12. Referring to the various commitments made by the international community in 2005 in support of meeting the special needs of Africa, the Executive Secretary observed that 2006 must be seen as the year of action in support of those commitments. In this regard, he informed the Committee of ECA's work during the past year in support of advancing the continent's development agenda in several key areas. He cited as examples, the Forum for Statistical Development (FASDEV), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) regional meeting, the African Plenary on Poverty Reduction Strategies and the MDGs, and the Climate Change experts meeting, which were organized during the course of the year.

13. In reviewing some of the key items on the agenda of the present meeting, the Executive Secretary noted that the theme of this year's conference was also in direct response to the commitment made by the ECA Conference of Ministers in its Ministerial Statement of 2005 which called for strategies for generating decent and productive work in Africa within the context of national poverty reduction strategiesin line with the 2004 AU Summit Declaration on Employment and Poverty Alleviation. To that end, he said he expected the
outcome of the present meeting to lead to the development of an action plan that integrates employment generation policies in the development policies, strategies and plans of African countries.

14. As part of its efforts to carry forward the outcome of the conference and implement the Ouagadougou Plan of Action, Mr. Janneh informed the meeting that ECA intends to establish a regional employment forum of technical experts and policy facilitators, drawn from the AU, ADB, ILO, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), to assist member States in developing capacity and facilitate learning and sharing of country-specific experiences.

15. Turning to another important item on the agenda of the meeting, the Executive Secretary informed the Committee of the steps taken by ECA under his leadership to respond to the 2005 World Summit outcome and other important developments at the regional level. As an important first step, he told the Committee that he had already set up a Task Force to review the current and emerging needs of Africa and to propose changes that would enable ECA to respond more effectively to the needs of its member States and enhance the impact of its work. The work of the Task Force has been informed by the consultations undertaken with a wide range of stakeholders, including member States, key partners such as the AU Commission, AfDB, the RECs, and other Agencies of the UN System as well as ECA staff. These consultations have shown that overwhelming support exists for repositioning and renewing ECA. The process has also benefited from consultations. The Executive Secretary then went on to review some of the initial findings and recommendations of the Task Force with the Committee.

16. Among the key recommendations of the Task Force is the proposal to focus ECA's future work on two broad areas reflecting Africa's priorities, namely promoting regional integration, where ECA proposes to scale up its support to strengthen the institutions that are driving the regional integration agenda, namely the AU Commission and the RECs; and meeting Africa's special needs and the global challenges faced by the continent. Within these two broad priority areas, the work programme will concentrate on addressing six core themes as follows: social development, food security and sustainable development, trade, globalisation and economic development, information and communication technologies (ICTs), science and technology as well as good governance and development management. Statistical development, and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women would be cross-cutting themes to underpin work in these areas.

17. The Executive Secretary noted that the thematic areas identified responds to very clear mandates from member States and entails the need to strengthen cooperation with the AU, the ADB and other regional and subregional organizations to achieve the objectives of NEPAD. He further noted that the Commission's organizational structure, resource allocation and skills mix will have to be aligned with the new strategic priorities and thematic areas of focus, including the institutionalization of a human resource and work environment that leads to improved staff motivation and performance.

18. The Executive Secretary concluded his statement by inviting the Committee of Experts to discuss the proposals in-depth when that agenda item is considered on the next day of the meeting, and provide appropriate guidance and endorsement.

19. In his preliminary remarks, His Excellency, Mr. Seydou Bouda, Minister of Economy and Development of Burkina Faso welcomed participants to the meeting, and commended ECA for the constant support it provided to the Government of Burkina Faso in organizing the current meeting.

20. Mr. Seydou Bouda emphasized how timely the current meeting was in providing an opportunity for the African countries and the international community to work together to address development challenges, especially those having to do with unemployment and poverty which were glaring in Africa. In that regard, he stressed that poverty had not been impacted by economic growth partly because most people had no secure employment or source of income. While regretting that little progress had been made in implementing the September 2004 Ouagadougou Declaration adopted by the special session of African Union Heads of State and Government, he commended the relevance of the Declaration in laying the groundwork for concerted action in matters of employment. Accordingly, he exhorted the Committee of Experts to give pride of place to employment in their quest to reduce poverty. He hoped participants would come out with a global framework which would impart a significant lease of life to employment creation based on firm national policy commitment.

21. Among other things, he recommended that member States should institute coherent national employment creation frameworks taking into account the imperative need for fine tuning implementation strategies at national, sub-regional and regional levels. He strongly recommended that the Committee's work should enable the Conference of Ministers to reaffirm how vital employment was to poverty reduction and development in Africa. The Conference should formulate a framework for implementing the Ouagadougou commitments regarding employment and poverty reduction, propose partnership strategies for implementing the Ouagadougou commitments and mandate ECA secretariat to organize, at the regional level, an expert forum to consider and propose appropriate strategies for effectively implementing the Ouagadougou Declaration.

Presentation and discussion of the survey of economic and social conditions in Africa in 2005 and prospects for 2006 [agenda item4]

22. The Committee had before it the document entitled "Survey of Economic and Social Conditions in Africa 2005" (E/ECA/CM.39/3/Rev.1). The Committee commended the secretariat for the quality and comprehensive nature of the document. The Committee was informed that African countries continued to benefit from good economic performance, with real GDP growth increasing from 5.2 per cent in 2004 to 5.3 per cent in 2005. Among the key drivers explaining this performance are the improved macro-economic management framework in several
countries, and the continued rise in key commodity export prices, in particular oil. In addition, increased agricultural production in a number of countries also contributed to higher economic growth, especially in the East Africa sub-region. These factors are expected to continue to support growth in 2006.

23. However, the Survey also pointed out that aggregate growth figures mask a wide diversity across countries and regions, and did not translate into sufficient job creation. As a result, poverty levels and social conditions in the region did not show significant signs of improvement. In most cases, growth remains insufficient and volatile for African countries to reach the MDGs by 2015. To address this issue, the Survey recommended African policymakers to: promote economic diversification; ensure reliable supply of energy; provide adequate infrastructure; intensify efforts towards regional integration; and make employment central in macroeconomic policies.

24. During the discussion, it was noted that current developments in the region are encouraging. However, this good performance is largely driven by increased global demand and not sufficiently by regional economic fundamentals. It was further noted that savings and investment rates have remained low. To better exploit their comparative advantages, it was proposed that African countries tackle capacity needs, encourage economic diversification, and further efforts to improve governance. The Committee also acknowledged that peace and security were prerequisites for countries to achieve growth and sustainable development, as evidenced by the number of post conflict countries which had joined the group of Africa's fastest growing economies in 2005. Overall, a key message that emerged from the discussions was the need for national development strategies to emphasis employment creation and its key determinants-namely capacity building of institutions and human resources.

25. The Committee encouraged the adoption of integrated policies and dynamic development strategies that target employment generation and poverty reduction especially. To this end, it was recognized that African countries needed to better understand the sources of growth and identify sectors that have more potential to create jobs for the poor. However, investing in such sectors is particularly challenging in light of the increasing dependency on technology and capital-intensive production processes. To implement the required policies, the Committee stressed the need to mobilize additional resources and use them more efficiently. In this respect, countries need to encourage both domestic and foreign investments particularly in sectors with high potential for employment creation. One of the key strategies to reach this objective is to develop human capital through better access to education and enhanced training programmes. To further this agenda, the meeting recommended the creation of a regional forum to share experiences and good practices as well as define concrete policy actions based on country-specific conditions.

26. The Committee observed that there were additional factors involved in meeting the challenges of employment, including an increase in the level of development assistance, increased market access and an improved international trading system. To reap the benefits of globalisation, the Committee stressed the importance of fostering regional integration, which could contribute to improving the adoption of common positions on issues such as international trade negotiations.

27. The Committee felt that the Survey had not paid sufficient attention to the social dimension of development and accordingly encouraged the secretariat to consider, in future editions, social development issues (more particularly the impact HIV/AIDS) as well as climatic shocks and development financing.

28. Noting that the data used in the Survey were not always consistent with the official statistics in some countries, the Committee encouraged the ECA secretariat to enhance its partnership with member States in order to obtain accurate and timely information on economic and social developments in Africa.

Presentation and discussion on the theme of the Conference - Meeting the Challenge of Employment in Africa [agenda item 5]

29. Under this agenda item, the secretariat presented the paper on the theme of the conference entitled "Meeting the Challenge of Employment in Africa" (E/ECA/CM.39/4). The presentation underlined the centrality of employment for social development, and hence, the achievement of the MDGs in Africa. To further employment creation in Africa, the Ouagadougou Declaration with its Plan of Action, adopted by African Heads of State and Government in 2004, calls for employment to be placed at the centre of development policies and programmes of member States. The paper, therefore, reviewed progress made in the implementation of the Plan of Action and elaborated on the constraints faced by member States in this process.

30. To accelerate the implementation of the Ouagadougou Declaration and its Plan of Action, the Issues Paper outlined a six-pillar action framework: (1) mainstreaming employment in national development programmes including macroeconomic frameworks underlying poverty reduction policies and programmes; (2) promoting structural transformation and diversification to expand the base of employment, especially intensifying linkage between agriculture and other sectors of the economy; (3) promoting governance for private sector and social development, particularly, strengthening social and public-private sector partnerships; (4) harnessing regional integration and globalization, with a focus on broadening the demand base for local business expansion and minimizing the adverse effects of international migration; (5) implementing integrated human resources development programmes that strengthens the linkage between the real economy and the education sector as well as reduce skills mismatch in the labour market; and (6) strengthening institutional capacities including the provision of timely, reliable and accurate employment statistics and improving the level of utilization of employment specialists in national development planning.

31. Within the proposed framework, the paper also identified specific strategies that member States would need to consider, such as: intensifying the role of ICTs in employment generation and mobilizing financial resources for employment generation activities. In addition, the paper recommended the establishment of a regional forum of technical experts and policy facilitators comprising key stakeholders - AU, ILO, ECA and RECs as well as appropiate ministries, private sector, labour, youth and women at the country level. This forum would support member States in the development of national employment generation strategies and operational framework in line with the Ouagadougou Plan of Action.

32. In the discussions that followed, the Committee emphasised the fact that employment is central to the African development agenda, as acknowledged by the 2004 Summit of Heads of State in Ouagadougou. The Committee overwhelmingly agreed that the creation of employment, and especially decent employment, is a challenge that requires the concerted efforts of key stakeholders at all levels. They also echoed the need for the formulation of common strategies for employment generation based on best practices and lessons learnt. The experts further stated that employment should be considered as a cross-cutting issue in all development strategies and policies to meet the MDGs. To this end, it was underlined that countries should target pro-poor growth policies that would lead to generating additional employment.

33. The Committee highlighted the need to formulate well-focused employment programmes, especially targeting disadvantaged social groups such as youth and women as well as internally displaced persons. In particular, the experts were of the view that concerns of the youth should be properly addressed, including providing them with the required type of entrepreneurial, business and self-employment skills, job attachment and internships.
Furthermore, the meeting highlighted the need to strengthen training institutions to produce skills required by the labour market, build capacity of networks for youth entrepreneurs, and provide micro-finance for small scale agro-industries.

34. The Committee further emphasised the strategic importance of addressing the challenges facing women such as discrimination in employment, the allocation of business and financial credit, access to other productive resources, including land, and limitations emanating from cultural traditions and practices.

35. The Committee also stressed that the private sector should be fully involved in the employment policy process through enhanced public-private sector partnerships since the private sector is the major engine of job creation. To re-enforce these partnerships, the experts were of the view that social dialogue among business, government, and labour is required. In this connection, the experts underscored long-term solutions for sustainable job creation through, for example, small scale rural agro-industrial processing and structural agricultural transformation.

36. Given the size of African economies, the experts also expressed the need to integrate employment considerations in the regional integration process. They noted that in spite of the efforts of the RECs to implement harmonised trade and investment protocols, high tariff and non-tariff barriers still remain.

37. On the issue of delineating roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders, including member States, RECs, civil society and other regional and sub-regional organisations, the experts stressed the need to adopt clear guidelines and principles for the implementation of the Ouagadougou Plan of Action. It was noted that so far only few countries have attempted to put in place the necessary institutional mechanisms. The experts, however, deplored the lack of reliable and timely statistics to have a clear picture of the employment situation in their countries which makes it difficult to design and formulate policies. In addition, the lack of data constrains the monitoring and evaluation of progress achieved in implementing these policies and strategies.

38. In summary, the Committee agreed on four key points: 1) employment is of primary importance for African countries to further their economic and social objectives, a challenge that requires cross-sectoral approaches supported by strong regional partnerships; 2) some countries have attempted to develop strategies that incorporate the Ouagadougou Plan of Action.
3) the challenge at implementation has country-specific aspects. For example, in some countries the promotion of youth and graduate employment remains very difficult, while the lack of statistics is a common challenge to all countries; and 4) mechanisms for promoting further implementation of the Ouagadougou Plan of Action should include institutional partnership arrangement at all levels, increased resource mobilization, and strengthened regional integration for long-term employment generation. To this end, the Committee strongly indicated the need for a regional employment forum of experts to assist member States to formulate and implement adequate employment policies and programmes.

39. On the basis of the above, the meeting recommended the following: a) convening of a regional employment forum under the joint auspices of ECA, AU, ILO and ADB for the operationalisation of the Ouagadougou Plan of Action; b) strengthening national statistics offices for reliable and timely data generation; c) establishing skills-development systems at all levels to match labour market requirements; and d) developing strong public-private partnerships to further accelerate job creation.

Presentation and Discussion on the Report on Progress in Aligning Poverty Reduction Strategies with Millennium Development Goals [agenda item 6]

40. Under this agenda item, the Secretariat presented a report entitled, Progress and Challenges in Aligning Poverty Reduction Strategies with Millennium Development Goals (E/ECA/CM.39/5). The report reflects work undertaken by ECA and UNDP on the alignment of poverty reduction strategies (PRSs) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It also incorporates the outcomes of the recent African Plenary on National Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Implementation of MDGs jointly convened by ECA, the African Union Commission and UNDP in Cairo in March, 2006.

41. The report indicates slow progress towards meeting the MDGs in Africa with most targets remaining elusive for the region. In this respect, the report underscored the importance of aligning PRSs with the MDGs. This will subsequently create synergies in policy formulation and provide opportunities to embed these objectives in public expenditure frameworks and monitor progress.

42. The Secretariat informed the Committee of three instruments/strategies for Member States to achieve alignment between the PRSs and MDGs. These are: 1) the MDGs Report; 2) the MDGs Needs Assessment; and 3) the subsequent revenue mobilization, implementation and monitoring framework. The report highlighted good experiences from three African countries, namely: Ethiopia, which had aligned both policy content and implementation; Tanzania, which has clustered goals in their PRS around the MDGs; and Uganda, which has taken a dynamic approach to adapting their PRS. To address alignment constraints, the presentation underscored three dimensions: improving ownership, leadership and accountability; furthering country-level capacities to implement MDG-based PRSs; and promoting longer-term and more effective aid flows.

43. Following the presentation by the ECA, UNDP provided a brief overview of the PRS process in African countries, covering both the first and second generation of PRSs. Based on UNDP's findings, the following policy issues were highlighted: the ineffectiveness of a detailed sectoral Needs Assessment in the absence of resources to carry out the activities; the difficulties linking the needs assessment, a longer-term instrument, with the medium-term expenditure framework and the annual budget cycle; and finally, the lack of human and financial capacity in member States. In order to address these issues, African countries need extra financial and technical resources and fiscal space. UNDP also noted that strategic partnerships with the ECA and ADB will contribute to supporting African governments. Moreover, collaboration with African-based research institutions would assist Member States in these areas.

44. During the discussions that followed the above presentations, several participants observed that national development strategies including the PRSs in most countries were not aligned with the MDGs and other development plans. Participants pointed out several challenges faced by member States in their efforts to align PRSs and other national development strategies with the MDGs. Key among the challenges was how to incorporate the PRSs and MDGs into the national macroeconomic and development framework. This was seen as a huge challenge given the fact that most countries have had limited ownership of their macroeconomic policies due to externally imposed conditionalities. Participants recognized that many African countries had achieved varying degrees of alignment of their PRSs to the MDGs, however, the rate of implementation and progress towards achieving the MDGs remained low, mainly due to three factors, namely: lack of capacity at the country level, lack of financial resource and lack of adequate statistics.

45. During the discussions, some participants pointed out several difficulties of methodology encountered by member States in aligning their PRSs and other national development strategies with the MDGs. They proposed that ECA should address the issue of methodology and provide expertise on an appropriate approach.

46. Regarding the lack of financial resources, the meeting noted that there is need for African countries to improve the mobilisation of internal financial resources. The meeting also observed that external financial flows were vital in ensuring the implementation of the MDGs-based PRSs, while additional financial resources were not forthcoming despite the commitments made by development partners.

47. Participants deplored the lack of accurate statistical data in most African countries.
It was noted that in most countries the lack of adequate statistical data was a major obstacle to meaningful analysis, design, implementation, and monitoring the MDGs. A presentation from the Bureau of Statistics "Friends of the ECA" underscored the importance of statistics for planning, monitoring and evaluation of development programs, including the PRSs and
the MDGs. It reminded the participants about the decisions made at the Cape Town Symposium on Statistical Development regarding the coordinating role of ECA to strengthen statistical activities in Africa. In this regard, the Committee welcomed ECA's renewed efforts to develop robust and reliable statistical databases for tracking the continent's economic performance.

48. In light of the above, the Committee made the following recommendations:

a) Regional and international institutions, including the Bretton Wood institutions, should continue to provide technical assistance, and training, including discussion forums for sharing of experiences to member States to build and enhance their technical capacity for policy design, implementation and monitoring;

b) Member States should increase their capacity for resource mobilization both foreign and domestic and with the assistance of regional institutions such as the AU, ECA and ADB, they should continue dialogue with development partners to increase their financial and technical support to African countries for the latter to effectively implement and monitor the MDGs. In particular, ECA, in collaboration with UNFPA, should assist member States to undertake preparatory activities towards the 2010 round of Population and Housing censuses highlighting the importance of poverty mapping in the analysis of their second generation PRSPs.

c) African countries should adopt legislative reforms and allocate adequate financial resources to improve the operations of their national statistical offices particularly with respect to data collection and analysis for decision making and accountability.

Statutory issues [agenda item 7]

  • Consideration of the Annual Report on the work of the Commission, 2006

49. Under this agenda item, the secretariat presented a document entitled, Annual Report 2006 (E/ECA/CM.39/8). The report covered the major activities undertaken by the Commission including its subsidiary bodies during the period since the last session of the Commission in May 2005.

50. The secretariat highlighted the major accomplishments of ECA in supporting the development of its member States during the past year and made a presentation covering activities under each of ECA's eight substantive subprogrammes. During the period under review, ECA addressed the issue of poverty reduction under its sub-programme on facilitating economic and social policy analysis while the sub-programme on fostering sustainable development to continue to focus on the nexus issues of food security and sustainable development. Similarly, other sub-programmes further addressed the issues of promoting good governance practices for broad stakeholder participation; harnessing information technologies for development; accelerating regional integration through intraregional and international trade as well as physical integration; promoting the advancement of women; supporting sub-regional activities for development through the Commission's five sub-regional offices; and enhancing national capacity for economic policy formulation and implementation through training programmes.

51. In the discussion that followed, the Committee commended ECA for its work in support of member States, particular in strengthening capacity for the implementation of the NEPAD priorities. However, the experts underscored the need for the Commission to strengthen its sub-regional offices and enhance coordination of its activities with those of other organizations working towards Africa's development, such as the AU, the ADB and UNDP, especially in the context of the MDGs.

52. The Committee took note of ECA's work in the area of international trade negotiations and called on the secretariat to continue to provide assistance to African countries in that regard. In particular, it called on ECA to undertake more work on the potential impacts of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and other WTO-related agreements, noting that uncertainties in the outcome of such agreements had made some countries reluctant to pursue negotiations. It was stressed that when entering trade negotiations, African countries should keep the focus on potential benefits that could be derived from the process.

53. Given the important role of African Embassies based in Addis Ababa in building African common positions around key strategic issues, the Committee emphasized the need for ECA to strengthen its working relationships with these diplomatic missions and engage them on substantive issues.

54. The Committee also stressed the importance of private sector development and highlighted the need for ECA to strengthen its policy research and advocacy in that area. This was seen as key to ensure a successful transformation of African economies, especially in the effective diversification of the continent's production base.

55. Peace and security remain critical in Africa as some countries on the continent emerge from conflict. In this regard, the Committee called on the secretariat to strengthen its work in the areas of conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and institutional building.

56. The Executive Secretary of ECA took the opportunity to thank the experts for their guidance and support in furthering the work of the Commission. He paid tribute to his distinguished predecessor, Mr. K.Y. Amoako, who initiated many of the accomplishments reported. He noted that ECA has a rich pool of human resources that could be put to use in advancing Africa's development agenda. He indicated that ECA is bracing itself to cover new grounds, especially in the area of post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation. On capacity building, he underscored the importance of knowledge institutions, such as IDEP, and appealed to the Committee to endorse a resolution committing member States to provide moral and financial support to the institution.

57. In the light of the above observations and recommendations, the Committee took note of the report.

  • ECA's response to the 2005 World Summit Outcome

58. Under this agenda item, the Executive Secretary made a presentation based on two notes prepared by the secretariat entitled, "Follow-up to the 2005 World Summit Outcome: ECA's Response"(E/ECA/CM.39/6); and "Repositioning ECA to better respond to Africa's priorities: Note by the Executive Secretary (E/ECA/CM.39/7). The document outlined the actions taken by ECA in response to the 2005 World Summit Outcome, including notably, the recent initiative taken to reposition ECA to improve the delivery of its services to member States. This item was included on the agenda of the meeting in order to provide an opportunity for member States to offer their views on and seek endorsement of the reform proposals presented by the Executive Secretary.

59. The Executive Secretary briefed the Committee about the actions taken by ECA in response to the World Summit Outcome, in particular the background as well as rationale for the reform initiatives launched recently. The Committee was informed that ECA has been closely involved in a number of UN-wide initiatives as a follow-up to the World Summit Outcome, including preparations for a review of mandates; review of programmes and priorities by UN economic and social entities coordinated by the Executive Committee of Economic and Social Affairs (EC-ESA); and the Secretary-General's proposals on management reforms. In addition to its involvement in these global level reform efforts, ECA also launched self-driven initiatives to respond to the policy guidance contained in the World Summit Outcome. These include, most notably, the establishment of a Task Force to review ECA's priorities and articulate a new strategic orientation for its work. The Task Force will propose recommendations in other key areas including strengthening partnerships with other organizations within and outside the UN system, such as, the African Union (AU) and African Development Bank (ADB); and strengthening management and other organizational processes towards a more results-oriented programme of work in support of the development efforts of member States.

60. The Committee was informed that the actions taken so far have resulted from expert diagnostic studies carried out by some of the best external resources that ECA could identify around the world. It was also the result of extensive consultations with various stakeholders - African governments, regional and subregional organizations, including the AU and ADB, agencies of the UN system, and other external partners. The feedback from these consultations revealed strong support for a renewed and strengthened ECA with thecapacity to adapt and respond effectively to the changes taking place in Africa and the world at large.

61. The Committee was informed that the reform process would entail the refocusing of ECA's work programme around two broad regional priorities as follows:

i. Promoting regional integration; and

ii. Meeting Africa's special needs and the global challenges faced by the continent.

62. The first pillar would involve supporting the work of the AU Commission, the regional economic communities (RECs) and other African inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) to achieve the African Economic Community, while the second pillar aims mainly at providing comprehensive support for the implementation of the NEPAD programme with emphasis on the following core themes which reflect the priorities of NEPAD: Social development, food security and sustainable development, trade, globalisation and economic development, information and communication technologies (ICTs), science and technology as well as good governance and development management. Statistical development, and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women would be cross-cutting themes underpinning work in these areas.

63. The above priorities will be pursued by exploiting ECA's comparative advantage as a regional institution within the UN system established to promote the social and economic development of Africa through research, policy-oriented analyses, advocacy and consensus-building, knowledge production and management, and capacity-building. The priorities identified will be also be achieved through enhanced collaboration with other partners, from within and outside the UN system in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and ensure complementarities for enhanced programme results.

64. The Committee was informed that the reforms would also entail a review of ECA's organisational structures, resource allocation and skills mix to align it to the new strategic orientations once endorsed. This would be accompanied by a change in organizational culture and strengthening of management processes within a results-based management framework.

65. The Executive Secretary concluded his presentation by inviting the Committee's views and endorsement of the strategic orientations. On the next steps forward, he noted that more work would need to be done by ECA to concretize the proposals further once the Conference endorsed the strategic orientations, and assured the Committee of his commitment to continue with the consultation process he had already initiated.

66. The Committee welcomed the initiatives of the Executive Secretary and commended his vision and the boldness of the proposals he advanced for repositioning ECA to better serve the needs of member States. Several comments were made to enrich the proposals presented by the Executive Secretary. Key among these were the following:

  • Some participants saw the reforms as an opportunity to review and strengthen the role of the Conference of Ministers as the principal legislative and priority-setting organ of the Commission. In this regard, suggestions were made for improving the format of the meetings of the Commission, to make them more interactive forums for sharing national experiences and achieving substantive outcomes. In addition, it was proposed that the reform exercise should be conducted with broader and deeper consultation of member States.

  • The Committee noted that infrastructure development and economic and corporate governance should be included as additional priority areas in the new orientation. Other priority areas identified by participants include energy, where ECA was requested to deepen its work;

  • The Committee also stressed the importance of timely and up-to-date statistics and information for member States. In this regard, the Committee particularly welcomed the initiative by ECA to mainstream quantitative and timely statistics in its future work, and requested ECA to pay special attention to strengthening national statistical capacities for monitoring and tracking progress towards achieving development goals.

67. In the light of the above observations and recommendations, the Committee took note of both reports.

Any other business [agenda item 8]

68. There was no issue raised under this agenda item.

Consideration and adoption of the Report of the Committee of Experts and draft resolutions [agenda item 9]

69. Under this agenda item, the Committee considered the draft report of its meeting (as contained in document E/ECA/COE.25/L) together with three draft resolutions for consideration and adoption by the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. The Rapporteur introduced the report by briefly reviewing the three parts into which the report is divided, and invited the Committee to consider and adopt it.

70. The Committee adopted the report together with two of the draft resolutions with amendments, and requested the secretariat to finalize the report as appropriate.

71. With regard to the draft resolution on the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), one delegation strongly opposed the inclusion of the resolution on the grounds that the issue had not been discussed by the meeting, and suggested that the matter could be taken up by the next meeting of the Committee in 2007. Many other delegations did not share this view, and noted that paragraph 56 of the draft report adopted by the Committee explicitly referred to the appeal made by the Executive Secretary for the Committee "to endorse a resolution committing member States to provide moral and financial support to the institution." Moreover, it was explained that the Commission has been seized with issue of IDEP since 2002 when it adopted a resolution calling for increased support for the Institute (as reflected in the preamble of the resolution under consideration). After prolonged discussion on this issue, a consensus was reached to consider the resolution.

72. The Committee, then went ahead to consider and unanimously endorsed the draft resolution on IDEP and recommended its adoption by the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development with no amendments.

Closure of the meeting [agenda item10]

73. The Committee adopted the present report together with the draft resolutions contained in the annex attached to this report for consideration by the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

74. On behalf of the Executive Secretary, the Acting Deputy Executive Secretary of ECA, Ms. Josephine Ouedraogo, expressed gratitude to all the participants for their contributions in making the meeting a success. She thanked the Government and People of Burkina Faso for their hospitality and the facilities put in place for the meeting. She said she was particularly impressed with the quality and richness of the discussions, and appealed to member States to find ways of ensuring that the outcomes of the meeting is reflected into their national policies and programmes.

75. In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the Committee of Experts, Mr. Ly K. Bassirou, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economy and Development of Burkina Faso expressed gratitude for the opportunity given to him to chair the meeting, and thanked all the participants for their support and hard work. He commended the ECA secretariat for its work in preparing for this meeting as reflected in the high quality of the documents presented at the meeting.

76. The Chairman then declared the meeting closed.


Draft Resolutions submitted by the Committee of Experts to the Conference of Ministers for consideration

I. Repositioning ECA to better respond to Africa's priorities

The Conference of Ministers

Recalling the terms of reference of the Commission as adopted by the Economic and Social Council in resolution 671A (XXV) of 29 April 1958 and amended by its resolutions 974 D.1 (XXXVI) of 5 July 1963, 1343 (XLV) of 18 July 1968 and 1978/68 of 4 August 1978;

Bearing in mind General Assembly resolutions 45/177 of 19 December 1990, 45/264 of 13 May 1991 and 46/235 of 13 April 1992 on the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields, in which the call was made for the regional commissions to be enabled fully to play their role under the authority of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and that for those located in developing countries to be strengthened in the context of the overall objectives of the ongoing restructuring and revitalization process;

Taking into account The Economic and Social Council Resolution 1998/46 Annex III through which the Council emphasised the role of the Regional Commissions as United Nations outposts in their respective regions and as part of their regional institutional landscape;

Noting with appreciation the concerted global partnership for Africa's development and the momentum generated by the 2005 World Summit in order to operationalize and implement, at all levels, the commitments in the outcomes of the major international and United Nations conferences and meetings, including the G-8 Summit and the World Summit;

Recognizing the significant progress that has been registered in the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process in African countries and taking into account the important groundbreaking Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness;

Emphasizing the need for concerted efforts and continued support to fulfill the commitments to address the special needs of Africa notwithstanding progress made in African countries towards achieving several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015;

Stressing the important contribution that the ECA subregional offices (SROs) are making towards supporting the efforts of the regional economic communities of Africa to implement Africa's priorities including regional integration and meeting special needs of their respective member States in each of the five subregions;

Recalling the General Assembly resolution of 18 December 2005 on the Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the inspection of the programmes and administrative management of the subregional offices (SROs) of ECA, which requests the Secretary-General to present to the sixty-first session of the General Assembly a comprehensive plan of action to strengthen the SROs, based on the recommendations of the OIOS, with timelines and clear lines of managerial accountability in the context of the Action Plan to ensure that adequate resources are provided to ECA and its SROs to enable them to continue their support for NEPAD and the RECs, as well as to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations of the OIOS; and

Having examined in depth document E/ECA/CM.39/7 entitled "Repositioning ECA to better respond to Africa's priorities";

1. Recognizes the fundamental role that ECA, including its SROs, continues to play in the promotion of subregional, regional and international cooperation for Africa's development, as evidenced by the provision of its normative services (analysis, consensus-building, advocacy) and operational activities that have been mutually complementary and supportive to the member States, the African Union (AU) and NEPAD, and the subregional economic communities (RECs), as well as, its team leadership and responsibility for coordination of the United Nations system for greater coherence at the regional and subregional levels;

2. Welcomes the Note by the Secretariat;

3. Commends the Executive Secretary for taking this timely and major initiative;

4. Endorses the strategic direction, the guiding principles and proposals for repositioning ECA to better respond to Africa's priorities as contained in the Note;

5. Requests the Executive Secretary to take the necessary measures to implement these proposals in order to reflect them in the Commission's Biennial Programme Plan for the period 2008-2009, and realign its intergovernmental, programme and organizational structures in order to enhance the secretariat's management and business processes for greater results; and

6. Invites the United Nations Secretary-General to support the efforts of the Commission's renewal and reform process by providing ECA, including its SROs, with adequate resources in order to scale up their operations both at the subregional and regional levels through enhanced support to member States and strengthen its partnership with the African Union and NEPAD, and the RECs for promoting regional integration and meeting Africa's special needs and challenges.

II. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa

The Conference of Ministers

Recalling the guiding principles of the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the World Millennium Summit in 2000;

Mindful that these guiding principles and objectives are shared by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) that was adopted in 2001 as the African leadership vision framework;

Deeply concerned by the prospects for African countries not meeting some or all of the MDGs by 2015,

Noting that most African countries are engaged in the preparation and implementation of poverty reduction strategies (PRS) in collaboration with the international financial institutions (The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), in the framework of the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, or similar national action plans;

Recalling the Abuja Ministerial Statement of 15 May 2005 which has reaffirmed the vital importance of the MDGs as a framework for achieving poverty reduction and advancing development in Africa;

Taking into account the outcome of the 2005 Millennium Summit and the Cairo African Plenary on PRS and implementation of the MDGs, especially in respect to the need for African countries to align their national PRS or similar national action plans with the MDGs so as to bring coherence into the various planned actions aimed at achieving those goals by 2015;

Noting with appreciation that African countries have already taken steps to align their second generation of PRS with the MDGs and have elaborated comprehensive implementation plans;

Noting that African national efforts could be supported by an active mobilization of domestic resources and appropriate aid architecture, especially to ensure the effective implementation of national priority programmes for the achievement of the MDGs;

Noting also with concern the persistent view expressed by Africa's development partners, including the international financial institutions, on the lack of absorptive capacities of African countries to accommodate an increased inflow of aid;

Cognisant of the fact that aid conditionalities often deter the utilisation of aid inflows and, consequently, the attainment of development goals;

Stressing the importance of reliable statistics and data to plan, monitor and evaluate progress in the achievement of the MDGs;

Having examineddocumentE/ECA/CM.39/5 entitled "Progress and Challenges in Aligning Poverty Reduction Strategies with The Millennium Development Goals"

1. Encourages African countries to pursue their efforts in the alignment of their respective second generation PRS or similar national action plans with a strong commitment to achieve the MDGs;

2. Invites African Governments to establish a conducive environment that would promote broad-based stakeholder participation and, in particular, strengthen the role of the private sector in the mobilization of domestic resources for translating national development policies and programmes into concrete action;

3. Invites Africa's partners, especially the international financial institutions, to assist African countries in the alignment of their poverty reduction strategies to the Millennium Development Goals and their integration into their national macroeconomic framework;

4. Encourages those development partners, including the multilateral finance institutions, to align development assistance to national priority programmes for better utilization of national implementation capacities;

5. Requests the secretariat of the ECA to assist African countries to strengthen their capacities in the area of data collection and statistical analyses in order to develop performance indicators and statistics for MDG tracking.

III. African Institute for Economic Development and Planning

The Conference of Ministers

Expressing its appreciationto the African governments and bilateral partners that have made or pledged financial and other contributions to the Institute;

Noting with concernthat training request from African countries are growing and that the contributions of those countries to the general operating budget of the Institute still remain low;

Recalling Commission resolution 839 (XXXV) of 20 October 2002 that has implications on the mandate and operations of the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP);

Taking note of the appeal made by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and several member States for the urgent need to support the Institute;

Welcoming the recent progress made by the Institute in its various programmes and activities, including the improved cooperation that has been established with the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and with other national, subregional and regional institutions;

Noting that the bulk of the resources contributed to the Institute are directed mainly to support the delivery of training programmes rather than to its general operating budget, and stressing the need to address that unbalanced situation;

Noting alsothat while IDEP, as an integral part of the Commission's programme structure, provides training programmes to all African countries free of charge, the Institute only receives a limited grant from the United Nations regular budget, while similar United Nations institutions such as the Latin American Institute for Economic and Social Planning (ILPES) are provided with substantial resources from the United Nations regular budget; and

Reiterating that trainingactivities should be accorded a more visible and larger role in support of the management of African economies and in scaling up the efforts of capacity building within member States by ECA;

1. Reaffirms the importance of a coordinated, comprehensive approach to Africa's research and training agenda based on an effective coherent strategy and a results-oriented division of labour among the major regional organizations and other training institutions on the continent;

2. Also reaffirms the relevance of the IDEP for undertaking demand-driven training activities for African Governments, public organizations and the private sector in view of the growing importance of capacity building for member States and the relevance of training-related research activities by the Institute within its mandate;

3. Stresses the need for the Institute to strengthen further its cooperation with other United Nations institutes and relevant national, regional and international training institutions;

4. Welcomes the progress made in integrating IDEP in ECA's work programme and in building partnerships between the Institute and major Pan-African institutions, the RECs and other bodies of the United Nations system in respect to the training programmes, and, in this context, underlines the need to develop further and to expand the scope of such partnerships, in particular at the country level, with a view to ensuring that the Institute continues to remain a centre of excellence for training in Africa;

5. Encourages the Governing Council of IDEP to continue its efforts to resolve the critical financial situation of the Institute, in particular with a view to broadening its donor base and increasing the contributions made to the general operating budget of the Institute;

6. Emphasizes the need for member States to strengthen their support for the Institute by paying their assessed contributions regularly;

7. Requests the Executive Secretary of ECA, in consultation with the United Nations Secretary-General, to make proposals for alleviating the Institute's current financial difficulties, which are aggravated by the current provision of a grant instead of adequate United Nations regular budget resources, taking into account that similar United Nations training institutes enjoy such a privilege; and

8. Requests further the Executive Secretary to report to it at the fortieth session of the Commission/Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on the implementation of the present resolution, including the report on the status of contributions to and the financial situation of the Institute.