15 January 2009
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Praising many ‘important steps forward’ by Economic and Social Council in 2008,

Deputy Secretary-General says current global crises mean challenging year ahead

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the organizational session of the Economic and Social Council in New York, 15 January:

I am pleased to be with you this afternoon for the first meeting of the Economic and Social Council in 2009.

Allow me to congratulate you on your assumption of the presidency for this year.  I would like to join you, Madam President, in thanking Ambassador Léo Mérorès for his excellent job as President of ECOSOC for 2008.

When he took office as President 12 months ago, Ambassador Mérorès said he was confident 2008 could be another landmark year for the Council.

He was right.  Under his wise leadership, and with your support, ECOSOC took important steps forward on the biennial Development Cooperation Forum and on the annual Ministerial Review.  The Council also engaged, very actively, with a range of players from around the world who share our concerns about economic and social development.

I am confident that your new President, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, will guide the Council with equal success this year.  Indeed, in the face of multiple global crises, your work will be especially challenging in the months ahead.

The effects of the recent financial turmoil continue to reverberate around the world.  Years of painstaking efforts -- in this Council and across the international community -- hang in the balance.  Unemployment is rising, food and energy prices are fluctuating, social protection systems are failing and access to credit and financial services is shrinking.  All of this is taking a heavy toll on individuals, especially the poorest of the poor.

The latest United Nations forecast predicts that world per capita income will fall this year.  Developed countries lead the downturn, but developing countries are being dragged down, too.  Growth rates in many African States will not keep up with increases in population.  Some Latin American economies could grind to a standstill.  Even the fast-growing countries in Asia could suffer serious setbacks.

Moreover, the food crisis remains very much with us.  Prices may have dropped recently, but they are higher than they were in 2006.  Worse, countries still face structural supply problems.

So despite recent progress at the midpoint towards the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015, more people are suffering from poverty and hunger.

That hard-won progress is our investment in the future, and we have to protect it.  We have to redouble our efforts to reach the MDGs.  We have to step up initiatives for agricultural development to promote greater food security.  And we need action on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy, which are critical to addressing climate change.

We have just 11 months until the conference in Copenhagen, where negotiators must hammer out an agreement on international response to climate change that rises to the challenge and that all countries can support.

Above all, the international community must keep its promises to the world’s poor.

I was encouraged by commitments made at the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development to increase official development assistance in a bid to fulfil the long-standing targets, despite the challenges posed by the financial crisis.  Of course, now we need all States to meet their commitments.  We need substantial progress on the implementation of both the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration.

This Council is in a unique position to forge closer ties among all relevant actors, so as to maximize the UN’s potential to serve the needs of humanity.

The Development Cooperation Forum can work towards more effective approaches and greater coherence in the areas of aid, trade, investments and resource flows.

The Annual Ministerial Review offers an opportunity to exchange ideas and evaluate progress.  We should make the most of the next Review, which will focus on the critical issue of public health.

I am also encouraged by the interaction between the ECOSOC, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission in helping countries recovering from conflict and promoting an integrated approach to poverty eradication, sustainable development and human rights.

ECOSOC has also played a constructive role when emergencies hit.  During the food crisis last year, we saw how ECOSOC’s emergency sessions helped mobilize the international community to act.

There is much on our plate.  The Secretary‑General and I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

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For information media • not an official record