18 January 2007
Press Conference

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

PRESS CONFERENCE BY NEW PRESIDENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL


The major new functions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) included the Annual Ministerial Review, which would be a part of the high-level segment of its substantive session to be held in Geneva, Dalius Čekuolis ( Lithuania), that organ’s new President said at Headquarters this afternoon.


At a press conference to outline the Council’s goals for 2007, he said the Review was an effort to strengthen the notion of accountability in delivering and implementing the many promises that had been made regarding development goals.  The second new function was the biennial Development Cooperation Forum, which involved outreach to the many non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders with which the Council had close contacts.  There was a need to improve in that area by involving the private sector and academia in its work and by coordinating the many actors engaged in the development agenda, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.


In the interesting and challenging year ahead, the Council would also be in close contact with the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, pointing out that 7 of that body’s 31 members were elected by the Council.  It was important to maintain coherence since the Economic and Social Council complemented the Commission’s work by using its own positive experience of ad hoc working groups.  A more traditional task was the Council’s annual meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Trade Organization.  That important dialogue should be as frank as possible in order to generate fresh ideas, and even contradictory ones, so as to “keep both feet on the ground” while moving forward.


A correspondent asked whether the Committee on non-governmental organizations -- a subsidiary body that accredits non-governmental organizations to the Council -- would include people to carry out professional vetting of membership applications in place of the current politicized procedure.


Mr. Čekuolis said that matter had been discussed during his tenure as a member of the Council’s Bureau over the past year.  There had also been an extensive exchange of views on the subject during the Council’s substantive session in Geneva.


In a follow-up question, another journalist asked whether there had been any attempt to reform the standards for accrediting non-governmental organizations besides the Committee on non-governmental organizations.


Nikhil Seth, Director for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, who accompanied the President, said the 19-member intergovernmental Committee on non-governmental organizations vetted the accreditation process under rules established by the Council itself.  Over the years it had made strides in speeding up its consideration of applications and was constantly examining ways to improve it.  While it was a political body, and consideration of applications within the Committee itself was political in nature, it was an intergovernmental process and there was no active proposal either to abolish or change the process.


Asked how the Council would make a difference to anybody in the coming year, Mr. Čekuolis said the Council’s new functions would enable it to coordinate the international community’s efforts with respect to the development agenda, particularly those concerning the Millennium Development Goals.  The Council’s authority would be strengthened by its ministerial-level reviews that would soberly assess progress in implementation, see the gaps and recommend any adjustments needed.  With the approach of the 2015 deadline for attainment of the Millennium Goals, the Council would provide a “podium” to gather results and recommendations, making the way forward easier.


Questioned about the Council’s links with the World Summit on the Information Society, the President said that was one of the issues on the agenda for the resumed organizational session, which contained much about ways to continue the Tunis process.


[The first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society was held in Geneva in December 2003 and Tunis hosted the second phase in November 2005.]


Asked whether holding the presidency was worth his country’s sacrificing its candidacy for Security Council membership, Mr. Čekuolis said Lithuania had not sacrificed any ambitions.  It had an obligation to take up the European Union presidency in 2013 and would also be a candidate for the General Assembly presidency when the Eastern European Group’s turn next came around.


When would the Council actually take action to implement the development agenda, another correspondent asked, noting that there was too much evaluation, coordination and review.


Conceding that there were too many overlapping processes, the President said the Council would try to inspire Governments.  Success would only be achieved through political will on the part of Member States.


Another journalist asked whether the Council was ready to look into unsustainable development, global warming, how to slow climate change and energy systems that were incompatible with sustainable development.


Mr. Čekuolis replied that the answer was “yes” but he would not speculate on the calendar.


Asked to clarify how the Council defined sustainable development, Mr. Seth said the United Nations Charter had enabled the organ to establish a host of subsidiary bodies, including the Commission on Sustainable Development, the defunct Human Rights Commission, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Statistical Commission, and the Commission on Population and Development.  The Economic and Social Council must be seen in the light of a complete “architecture” of subsidiary bodies created to help it in the conduct of its work.


All those bodies reported to the Council, which then had the opportunity to look at those policy issues that had been examined by those more specialized bodies, he said.  All the items mentioned were always part of the ECOSOC system, but the Council lacked the time to give them as much in-depth consideration as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, for example.


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For information media • not an official record