Issue 119 - December 16 - ECOSOC May Create Panel of Experts on Economic and Financial Crisis

New York, December 16, 2009 - The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is considering the establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development.

The membership of such a panel is a source of disagreement among Member States, with some inclined towards a largely academic panel to minimize political imbalances, and others taking the approach of high-profile members, as in the 2006 High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence.

Calls to Consider Expert Panel

The call for an expert panel originated in the June 2009 UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, at which States discussed potential emergency and long-term responses to the economic downturn, with particular attention to its possible impacts on the developing world.

In the resultant decision, Resolution A/63/303 adopted on July 13, the General Assembly resolved to consider measures to counteract the economic and financial crisis, including the establishment of a panel of experts.

Such a panel could provide "independent technical expertise and analysis, which could contribute to informing international action and political decision-making and to fostering constructive dialogue and exchanges among policymakers, academics, institutions and civil society."

On July 31, following on the GA decision, ECOSOC asked (Decision 2009/258) the Secretariat to provide Member States with a report on the possible establishment of the ad hoc panel of experts by September 15, 2009.

Secretariat's Note on Expert Panels

The September 15 note by the Secretariat provided details on three past and current models of expert panels, evaluating their composition, organization and general effectiveness. The note concluded that, inter alia, such a panel would need to act independently, and that diverse sources of input were important. Given the broad mandate of the proposed panel, a format that allows for input from a wide range of stakeholders and perspectives could be most beneficial.

Composition Options

On November 10, ECOSOC members were briefed by three experts previously or currently involved in ad hoc expert panels dedicated to development issues. The topic was "past terms of reference and any relevant factors or experience of previous ad hoc panels of experts."

The presenters made the following observations and suggestions on membership and structure for the possible ad hoc panel:

  • Professor Joseph Stiglitz (former Chair of the Commission of Experts of the President of the GA on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System - "Stiglitz Commission")
    • Equitable geographical representation is important, as is diversity of expertise and theoretical perspectives.
    • Active consultation with civil society and independent institutions must be considered.
  • Mr. Adnan Amin (Director of the Secretariat of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and former Executive Director, High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment)
    • When "very distinguished, high-level" members are involved, many of whom either have political influence or are holding political office, media and international attention play a larger role, giving the panel's work more exposure and attention. However, well-known panelists of this sort also may be more inclined to act politically - not necessarily in keeping with the panel's mandate to provide a fair and balanced assessment.
  • Mr. Tariq Banuri (Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and coordinating lead author of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC))
  • The IPCC is an example of coherent and organized structure, with clearly delineated sub-groups and leadership hierarchy.  
  • It is important to have well-informed, active members of panel, as well as an integrated peer-review processes within the panel.
  • Equitable representation on the panel is key, as is the presence of a charismatic and proactive leader, inspiring the process to move forward positively and quickly.

Reacting to the presentations, some Member States seemed inclined toward high-profile membership in expert panels (such as in the System-wide Coherence panel), while others voiced concern about political balance problems on such panels, advocating instead for academic experts.

December 15 Review

At its final meeting of the resumed substantive session of 2009, held yesterday, December 15, ECOSOC again discussed the potential expert panel. ECOSOC President Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg) summarized the Council's discussions on the issue to date. She said that while announcing consensus would be premature, Member States had made considerable progress in defining the basic parameters and criteria of the panel.

Several States and groupings (Brazil, European Union, Group of 77 and China, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, United States, and Venezuela) spoke in support of continued efforts and a speedy establishment of a panel

Next Steps

In her closing remarks on December 15, Ambassador Lucas indicated that the possible forms of an expert panel would be considered again in the near future.  


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