The United Nations Economic and Social Council has suspended its annual session, which focused largely on development in Africa while touching on other pressing issues, including genetic testing and information and communications technology.
The four-week session, which wrapped up on Thursday evening in Geneva, was divided into several segments, including the "high-level" one, which annually attracts ministers and other policy makers from around the world. This year's high-level segment dealt with the role of the UN in supporting the efforts of African countries to achieve sustainable development. Participants included UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela, who took part via video link.
The high-level segment produced a Ministerial Declaration which urged help for African countries in managing their external debt, expressed deep concern over the impact of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases on the continent, and called for renewed efforts by industrialized countries to reach international targets for development assistance.
During its coordination segment, the Council, also known as ECOSOC, focused on the importance of sharing technology to boost economic progress in developing countries. Participants agreed that in today's globalized economy, competence in information and communications technology is essential, and called for developed nations to share their experience in that field with developing countries.
The Council also held segments devoted to operational activities for development and to humanitarian issues. In addition, the Council held a "general segment" which produced agreement on scores of resolutions and decisions covering a broad range of topics. Among those, the Council urged States to ensure that no one shall be discriminated against based on genetic characteristics, and that genetic testing is done with the prior, free, informed and express consent of the person concerned.