18 January 2011
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6455

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

Economic and Social Council

2011 Organizational Session

1st Meeting (AM)


Economic and Social Council Can Contribute Where it Counts — in Field, in Areas


Blighted by Poverty, War, Natural Disasters, Says Deputy Secretary-General

 


Says Council Should Hold Countries to Promises, Pave Way for UN to Help Make

Development Agenda Resounding Success; Meeting Elects 2011 President from Zambia


This year would be an important one for the United Nations and its work around the world, and the Economic and Social Council would be an important actor in addressing the eight strategic opportunities identified by the Secretary-General as capable of reaping the greatest gains, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said today. 


Addressing the first organizational meeting of the Economic and Social Council’s 2011 session, she said the first strategic opportunity was advancing action on an inclusive and sustainable development.  “This Council can provide effectiveness where it counts — in the field, on the ground where we operate, in areas blighted by poverty, war and natural disasters”.  The Council’s responsibility, she added, was to hold countries and partners to their promises, and to pave the way for the United Nations to do its part in making its ambitious development agenda a resounding development success.


Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said that in the months ahead, the Council would focus on actions and progress made towards achieving the education goals, within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All agenda.  The ministerial review would aim at promoting practical strategies to increase access to and quality of education around the world as the basis for poverty eradication and sustainable development.  The Department of Economic and Social Affairs would tap into the resources of the United Nations system in support of that work.


In his capacity as Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, he said the Conference — also known as Rio+20 — must be a critical milestone in renewing political commitment on sustainable development, especially against the background of looming climate change and weakening global economic recovery.


In its primary business today, the Council elected by acclamation Lazarous Kapambwe of Zambia as its new President, on the recommendation of the African States Group.  Also by acclamation, it elected four Vice-Presidents:  Abulkalam Abdul Momen of Bangladesh (Asian States Group); Miloš Koterec of Slovakia (Eastern European States Group); Gonzalo Gutiérrez of Peru (Latin American and Caribbean States Group); and Jan Grauls of Belgium (Western European and Other States Group).  The Council also adopted the provisional agenda for its 2011 organizational session (document E/2011/2).

Taking the floor after his election, Mr. Kapambwe emphasized the importance for the Council to accelerate its review and coordination of implementation of the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit outcome document, adopted during the 2010 high-level General Assembly meeting in September.  Equally important was the need for the Council to begin to pronounce itself on the post-2015 development framework, as the summit had clearly demonstrated that some regions, especially Africa, would not achieve the Goals by the stipulated deadline. 


Outgoing Council President Hamidon Ali of Malaysia noted that over the past year, the Council had continued to grow stronger and had transformed itself into a more dynamic forum, including through its 2010 annual ministerial review, with its focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and its Development Cooperation Forum.  The Council had also taken on its responsibility of supporting the operationalization of UN-Women.  The Council was a Charter body of the United Nations and, as such, its role in global economic governance should be maximized and built upon, he said.


In other business, the Council, following tradition, set the seating arrangements for the new session by lottery.  By the results, Ghana would take the first seat and be followed by Guatemala.  Seating of the remaining members would continue in the English alphabetical order.


The 54 members of the Economic and Social Council are:  Argentina; Australia; Bahamas; Bangladesh; Belgium; Cameroon; Canada; Chile; China; Comoros; Côte d’Ivoire; Ecuador; Egypt; Estonia; Finland; France; Gabon; Germany; Ghana; Guatemala; Guinea-Bissau; Hungary; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Latvia; Malawi; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Mongolia; Morocco; Namibia; Nicaragua; Norway; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Qatar; Republic of Korea; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States; Venezuela; and Zambia.


Statements


Outgoing President HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that at the beginning of his presidency, he had stated that the Council “must continuously prove its worth or be consigned to irrelevance”.  Over the past year, the Council had continued to grow stronger and had transformed itself into a more dynamic forum. 


He said the Council’s 2010 annual ministerial review, with its focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, had served as a bridge between the 15-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the General Assembly’s high-level meeting in September 2010 on the Millennium Development Goals.  The Council’s ministerial-level review had continued to engage a broad range of stakeholders and had helped amplify the development agenda.


The Development Cooperation Forum had also provided strategic input for the Assembly’s development summit, he said.  The Forum should strengthen its work on policy coherence and should conduct regular assessments of trends in development assistance flows.  The Forum had the potential to fill a gaping hole in the development cooperation architecture by discussing development cooperation issues and those related to the impact of aid in a universal and multi-stakeholder context.  To deliver on its broad mandate, the Forum should be held annually.


He said that as the Council sought to strengthen its position in global economic governance, it should continue to engage with other mechanisms, such as the Group of 20.  He welcomed the participation of the Global Civil Society Network during 2010 as well as the first televised debate — “Face to Face” — on the role of culture in women’s empowerment.


Although significant progress had been made in strengthening the Council’s interaction with the Peacebuilding Commission, he said there was additional scope for strengthening of the institutional links between the two bodies, in particular, regarding strengthening the development prospects for other countries emerging from conflict not on the Commission’s agenda.  The Council should continue to highlight the linkages between development, peace and security during its annual sessions.  Regarding Haiti, he urged the Council to continue to support the country’s recovery from “a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”.


He said the 2010 ECOSOC Retreat, with its theme:  “Building on Progress:  Defining new Actions”, held on 29 and 30 October 2010, had recommended that, as a Charter body of the United Nations, the Council’s role in global economic governance should be maximized and built upon.  The Council should be seen in its entirety as a system, including its functional commissions and other subsidiary machinery, and the system’s comparative advantages should be optimized.  The Council’s role as a global coordination body of the Organization should also be maximized.


In 2010, the Council had also been given the responsibility of supporting the operationalization of UN-Women, he noted.  The Council had taken a leading role in the establishment of UN-Women’s Executive Board.  The Council’s role in that important new entity would continue in coordinating the linkages between the normative aspects of its work through the Commission on the Status of Women.


In conclusion, he said that in 2011, the Council should continue to focus on increasing its profile in the broader context of endeavours to strengthen the United Nations to achieve its objectives.  The Council must also look ahead to the critical task of implementing the internationally agreed commitments on education.


Incoming President LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) said he represented a region that was lagging the most in terms of development in all socio-economic sectors and pledged to do his best to ensure that Africa’s challenges, as well as those of other regions, were tackled in the best way possible.


He said that as Heads of State had adopted the Millennium Development Goals Summit outcome document in September 2010, articulating an action agenda for the next five years, it was imperative for the Council to accelerate its review and coordination of implementation.  The annual ministerial review in July, with its focus on education, would accomplish a comprehensive review of each of the main Goals.  The Development Cooperation Forum had helped to sharpen the understanding on how to maximize the impact of policies and development assistance on the Goals.


Equally important was the need for the Council to begin to pronounce itself on the post-2015 development framework, he said.  The Summit had clearly demonstrated that some regions, especially Africa, would not achieve the Goals by the stipulated deadline unless more effort was exerted by the international community.  The Council’s deliberations would help to shed light on both progress to date and on required actions.


He said an abiding strength of the Council lay in its composition as a forum of representatives of Governments, civil society organizations and United Nations system partners.  Missing, however, were the insights of academia as an important stakeholder group, and effective ways should be found for the Council to benefit more completely from that group’s input.  Involving public policy actors, such as parliamentarians, local governments and national and regional economic and social councils, could also enrich the Council’s deliberations.


Last year, the establishment of UN-Women had been recorded in history as a significant event regarding system-wide coherence, he said, encouraging the Council to advance the objective of system-wide coherence, as its role in bringing together the normative and operational aspects of the system’s work could not be overstated.  To that end, the Council should promote closer collaboration between it and its functional commissions and better link its work with that of the executive boards of funds and programmes, as well as with the United Nations Development Group regional mechanisms. 


The very nature of crises had changed, he said.  Conflicts were now mainly within States, he added, underlining their close links with development and other concerns.  Climate change had exacerbated the threat of natural disasters to development, peace and security, and it was imperative, therefore, that the Council be properly seized of the connections with its policy-making and coordinating roles.  In that regard, he was committed to ensure that Haiti remained on top of the Council’s agenda.  He also hoped that the Council would contribute to the successful outcome of the forthcoming United Nations Fourth Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held in May, in Istanbul, Turkey.


ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said “2011 will be an important year for our Organization and our work around the world”.  The Economic and Social Council could be an important actor in addressing the eight strategic opportunities identified by the Secretary-General. 


She said the first of those was advancing action on inclusive and sustainable development.  The action agenda adopted during the Millennium Development Goals Summit provided a road map towards 2015.  The Council must closely monitor progress, which was “an arduous and sometimes tedious task”, but also an essential one.  Forging partnerships for development after the agreed target date of 2015 was also a key task for the Council.


The world sorely needed greater global solidarity, she said.  In order to create a more stable and prosperous world for future generations, durable solutions were needed, based on a sustainable approach that linked social, economic and environmental challenges.  Plans and pledges had been made, and the Council was critical in the process of holding all accountable in that regard. 


Noting that during 2011, the Council would focus on education, she said that although greater progress had been made on the agreed education Goal than on any other, there were still some 72 million children missing out on primary education and one in six adults could not read, two thirds of them women.  “Greater progress is not enough progress,” she said.  That was why empowerment of women was another area where the Secretary-General saw great strategic opportunities, especially through UN-Women.  Actions should also be stepped up on climate change, the promotion of human rights, and improving response to major humanitarian crises. 


In conclusion, she said, “All of our efforts must be underpinned by a strong United Nations.  This Council can provide effectiveness where it counts — in the field, on the ground where we operate, in areas blighted by poverty, war and natural disasters.  You may be meeting in New York, but your reach extends around the globe.  So does your responsibility — to hold countries and partners to their promises, and to pave the way for the United Nations to do its part in making our ambitious development agenda a resounding development success.”


SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, highlighting last year’s accomplishments, said the Ministerial Declaration adopted during the Council’s 2010 substantive session had served as vital input to the Assembly’s summit on the Millennium Development Goals, particularly regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment.  That meeting’s outcome document had entrusted the Council to monitor progress on the Millennium Development Goals, specifically through the annual ministerial review and the Development Cooperation Forum.  The establishment of UN-Women and the greater participation of non-governmental organizations during the high-level segment of the Council’s substantive session were other accomplishments.


He said that in recent years, the Council’s new annual ministerial review and the Development Cooperation Forum had been firmly established and played a central role in the Council’s work.  Through them, the Council had provided critical leadership in promoting the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.  The review and Forum had also strengthened the Council’s contribution towards enhanced coordination within the United Nations system.  He also commended the Council’s renewed relationship with international financial and trade institutions.


In the months ahead, the Council would focus on actions and progress made towards achieving the education goals, within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All agenda, he said.  The ministerial review would aim at promoting practical strategies to increase access to and quality of education around the world as the basis for poverty eradication and sustainable development.  The Department of Economic and Social Affairs would tap into the resources of the United Nations system in support of that work, among other things, through better utilizing the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs and redoubling efforts to assist in the dissemination of best practices and lessons learned through national voluntary presentations and regional consultations.


Offering the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ continued support to the Development Cooperation Forum, he said the importance of that Forum’s independent assessment of trends in development cooperation and its work on policy coherence could not be overemphasized.  The Department stood ready to provide analytic support for Council consideration on how to make sustainable development a solid pillar in peacebuilding situations.


In his capacity as Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — also known as Rio+20 — Mr. Sha said he would do his utmost to support Member States in the Conference’s preparation and organization.  The Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs had been enlisted to ensure system-wide support, as had the United Nations Development Group and the Environmental Management Group.  The coordination arrangement was now referred to as “ECESA Plus”.  The regional commissions were conducting preparations as well.  Rio+20 must be a critical milestone in renewing political commitment on sustainable development, he said, especially against the background of looming climate change and weakening global economic recovery.


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For information media • not an official record