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General Assembly Second Committee (Economic and Financial)

Purview Purview

The General Assembly Second Committee addresses the economic development of Member States and the stability and growth of international financial and trade networks. The Second Committee deals solely with the economic development of Member States and addressing State-to-State assistance. It does not set or discuss the budget of the United Nations, which is solely addressed by the Fifth Committee. The Second Committee also does not address social issues that affect development; such issues are considered by the Third Committee.For more information concerning the purview of the United Nations General Assembly as a whole, see the introduction to the General Assembly Plenary.


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Women in development Women in development

Women play a crucial role in development, as they act as a catalyst for large economic, environmental and social change. These changes then set the stage for greater sustainable development. Women account for 49.6 percent of the world’s population and have great economic potential. They also fulfill major roles in societies around the world. For example, women account for 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Thus, they can cause major changes that can directly meet major development goals such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The United Nations recognizes this potential, and has been working to give women the tools and support they need to affect real change in society.

The United Nations has been committed to furthering women’s rights since its founding in 1948. In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is widely seen as the International Bill of Rights for women. CEDAW establishes a framework for specific action and offers definitions regarding discrimination. Through multiple Conferences on Women, the United Nations affirms its progress toward women’s empowerment. These conferences outline the United Nations’ commitment, in partnership with non-governmental organizations, to combat any remaining gender inequality and promote women’s rights throughout the world.

The UNDP has led to the creation of several initiatives to incorporate women into different roles for economic, social and environmental change. The Gender Equality Seal Programme, for example, aims to curb gender inequality in the workplace through assessment and then implementation of changes. The key areas for the Gender Equality Seal certification include eliminating gender-based pay gaps, increasing women’s roles in decision-making, enhancing work-life balance, enhancing women’s access to non-traditional jobs, eradicating sexual harassment at work and using inclusive, non-sexist communication. inMore than 400 companies across ten countries have been certified since 2009. This program also certifies regional UNDP offices in their work to support governmental partners in addressing gender equality. Certified entities are in turn supported with other resources UNDP has to offer. This program shows that collaboration with government and private organizations can lead to success in addressing gender equality in development.

The United Nations recognizes the need for sustainable development across the world, particularly when it comes to the connection between gender equality and development. In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted to continue the work developed under the Millenium Development Goals. This overarching plan includes seventeen goals, such as eliminating poverty, addressing climate change, gender equality and responsible consumption. They work hand in hand to create progressive actions addressing equality and sustainability. Gender equality is explicitly stated as one of the seventeen goals, and finds itself as an integral part of the remaining sixteen.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one initiative the United Nations created to address various development issues, including women’s role in development. The initiative addresses three core areas: gender equality, crisis response and development impact. Gender equality is a critical component of development. In order for gender equality to play this role, efforts to ensure available and equal opportunities must be part of any plan. The UNDP approach recognizes the unique experiences and needs of women and their ability to contribute to society. Their contributions are crucial in dealing with international issues such as climate change, conflict and disease. The UNDP strongly emphasizes the need for collaborative work to address this issue, including engaging civil organizations, nonprofits, academic institutions, for-profit organizations and international organizations.

In recent years, development strategies have sought to integrate women into more parts of society. By doing so, women can have a greater impact in society, including in areas such as the economy, law and the military. In 2015, United Nations General Assembly passed two resolutions to address women in development. These resolutions build upon past work, and call upon all future efforts to consider how to give women the opportunity to affect change in all parts of society. The United Nations is currently engaged in programs focused on creating sustainable economic development to have women engage in more active roles to promote economic growth and productivity, as mentioned in the 2017 resolution called Women in Development. Examples of programs to address women’s role in economic development are mentioned in several United Nations platforms. Several countries are highlighted in their progress towards including women increasingly serving in military roles, collaborations to end gender-based violence, women’s involvement in politics and differently-abled women joining the labor force. Such examples are a result of the partnerships between the UNDP and all aspects of civil society.

Despite the progress of several initiatives, women still face societal barriers to their involvement in economic development. Women around the world face violence and exploitation everyday while trying to work and support themselves and their families. They also often lack the tools and resources, such as education and funds, needed for their participation in development. The United Nations must continue to work with Member States and non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to women facing violence and provide them with the resources they need. Member States must also recognize the potential that women have to affect change in society and take steps to increase their ability to aid development in their countries. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, highlighted the continued importance of connecting women and development stating “even where progress is made, it may not reach the women and girls who need it most and the ones that are being left furthest behind.” In her 2018 speech to to the United Nations, Mlambo-Ngcuka urged Member States to recognize that failure to address this issue can result in missing the other development targets. With this in mind, Member States will need to work together to build upon past successes to strengthen women’s role in development.

Questions to consider: Questions to consider:

  • Is there a distinct role for women in development? What can Member States do to cultivate their role to increase and impact on development?
  • How can Member States work together to embrace a sustainable and equitable development model? Are there different methods that developing or developed countries are using that could be implemented globally?
  • What can be learned from initiatives, such as the UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal Programme? Are there successes or challenges from these programs that can be used to make new programs more effective?

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Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources

The conflict over the Occupied Palestinian Territories is not only an issue of disputed territory but also over natural resources. Resources—including land, water, minerals, natural gas and oil—have been contested, with Israel and Palestine both claiming ownership. However, Israel has maintained control over the majority of the resources, including 85 percent of the water. Where Palestine sees this as illegal seizure of these resources, Israel maintains that it has the right to these resources. The World Bank estimates the resources in the West Bank are worth $3 billion USD, with minerals alone estimated to be worth $900 million USD. The conflict over resources leads to other pressing challenges, such as violence; it also shapes who benefits economically from the resources. One area of particular contention are the gas reserves off the coast of the Gaza strip. The conflicts over natural resources contribute to larger issues of violence and conflict in the region. While this problem has had continued attention from the United Nations, solutions are difficult to identify.

Though the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a topic of discussion for the United Nations, the United Nations General Assembly first discussed permanent sovereignty over natural resources in the occupied Arab territories in 1973. The resolution was partially a response to Israel’s settlement policy established in 1967. The policy encouraged the establishment of settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. These Israeli settlements often cause tension around natural resources, both by using water and land for agriculture and by encouraging mining and other economic activities. In a resolution passed during the 1973 meeting, the General Assembly emphasized the importance of international collaboration to address this problem. The General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General report on specific exploitation and regulations enforced by Israel that may deter Palestinian economic development.

In 1983 the UN General Assembly recognized the rights of the Palestinian people to the resources within the occupied territories and stated that Israel’s actions are illegal exploitation of these resources and their economic potential. Israel and its supporters maintain that Israel’s actions do not break any laws. They argue instead that Israel has the right to defend itself and its territory. In 2005, the Secretary-General reported on Israel’s continued support of new  settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This report argues that the settlement activity violates international law, blocks investment and commercial activities, and degrades the environment. The Secretary-General notes that many of the same issues exist in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The report also highlights concerns about the water taxes imposed upon Palestinians and Syrians, in addition to the wells dug by Israel in the occupied territories. As of 2005, this report and previous resolutions have not deterred Israel. The World Bank estimates that the lost potential income is equivalent of 33 percent of Palestine’s GDP, and show that the Palestinian economy shrinks by $3.4 billion USD annually.

The international community continues to debate this issue, with consensus often difficult to reach. In 2011, the UN Security Council discussed the issue but was unable to pass a resolution on Israeli settlements. Since its first resolution on this topic, the United Nations General Assembly has reviewed the issue on a biennial basis, passing resolutions expressing concern about the environmental degradation caused by farms and pollution. In order to better address these issues, the United Nations General Assembly tasked United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to provide direct aid to the Palestinian people in resolution 33/147. The UNDP in turn launched the Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) in 1980. Through the PAPP, the UNDP delivers funds and training to the Palestinian people to develop jobs and infrastructure. In order to do this, the UNDP mobilizes the international community for funding, personnel and resources for the PAPP. Since 1980, the UNDP has provided $1.7 billion USD in development assistance to the Palestinian people. This aid has funded many projects, including those that focus on natural resource and environmental management. The UNDP recognizes the importance of managing essential resources such as water and land. Environmental degradation and water sanitation continue to be major challenges for the UNDP and the Palestinian people. Many areas of the occupied territories struggle with water sanitation. Despite 70 percent of the homes in Gaza being connected to a sewage system, the infrastructure is in need of major repairs and has lead to contamination of the aquifer. Continued efforts to address these issues will be crucial to prevent further degradation of infrastructure and ensure access to essential resources.

Today, many agencies in the international community and the United Nations continue to condemn Israeli actions due to their effects on the Palestinian economy. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development called these actions ‘de-development’ of Palestine in their 2017 report Assistance to the Palestinian People: Developments in the Economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This report highlights how Israeli actions have negatively affected the Palestinian economy, and shows how resources drawn from the occupied territories play a major role in this downturn for the Palestinians. In addition to the UN, the European Union called upon Israel to stop the exploitation of resources in the occupied territories.

Palestinian protest groups first proposed the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to change its behavior. This movement calls upon the international community to boycott products from Israel until they cease construction of settlements, dismantle the separation wall and commit to protecting the rights of the Palestinian people. Opponents of this approach state that it is unclear if BDS has been effective. Some proponents of the two-state solution have also proposed as a solution an agreement that the largest Israeli settlements would be identified as Israeli territory and be exchanged with the same amount of land for the Palestinian people. This exchange of land would also take into account the resources and economic potential of the areas. This solution would require greater coordination outside of the United Nations General Assembly to achieve, but would help address issues with natural resources within the occupied territories. Additionally, consensus within the international community has been difficult to achieve concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict. In order for the United Nations to implement solutions to this conflict, consensus will be an important part to any strategy.

Questions to Consider: Questions to Consider:

  • How can the international community ensure that economic gains from resources in occupied or contested territories are distributed fairly? What role can or should non-state actors play in encouraging resolution of the issue through actions like BDS?
  • How can the United Nations ensure that Palestinians have adequate access to water and other essential resources?
  • What steps can the United Nations take to prevent further environmental degradation? What role might Israel and Palestine play in preventing that degradation?

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