UN Economic and Social Council well-situated to enhance public health, says official

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang

31 July 2009 – The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is uniquely placed to address the world’s most pressing development issues, including public health, a top official with the world body said today, as the 54-member group wrapped up its annual month-long substantive session.

“Whether it is reducing maternal mortality, combating neglected tropical diseases or attaching high priority to non-communicable diseases, the Council can nurture a level of engagement which will usher change,” Sha Zukang, head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said in his closing remarks to the gathering in Geneva.

ECOSOC plays a crucial role in bringing governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others to effectively implement development strategies, he added.

During this year’s gathering in Geneva, Mr. Sha said the body discussed the current global recession and “also sent a message that unless we take an integrated view of the climate change crisis, the goal of achieving sustainable development, including health goals, would remain elusive.”

The high-level segment of the meeting wrapped up on 9 July with a call for global cooperation to tackle interrelated food, economic and climate crises, which are stalling efforts to reach development targets.

In the Ministerial Declaration adopted by consensus at the end of the four-day High Level Segment, participants stressed that “urgent and collective efforts” are crucial to improve public health, especially as the food crisis has affected the nutrition levels of people in poorer countries.

The financial and economic crises are “undermining and slowing or reversing the development gains of developing countries” as they try to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, the Declaration said.

Mr. Sha, in his address today, emphasized that ECOSOC is also well-positioned to help nations emerging from conflict.

“It can look at the breadth of issues that such countries have to deal with in pursuing their development goals and building a sustainable foundation for peace,” the official said, stressing the need for ECOSOC to boost ties with the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which was set up in 2005 to help countries coming out of war determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face.

ECOSOC, whose 54 members are elected by the General Assembly, is a UN body which meets yearly to further economic and social cooperation and development. Although its 2009 session was suspended today, it can choose to reconvene at any time during the year.

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