People must be centre of UN’s work, Annan tells opening of ECOSOC session

Secretary-General Kofi Annan

1 July 2002 – The international community must seize the unparalleled opportunities offered by the globalizing world in order to achieve greater equity through more sustained and balanced growth, especially in Africa, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today as it opened its annual session at UN Headquarters in New York.

Referring to recent and upcoming UN conferences dealing with international development aid and sustainable development, the Secretary-General said that "the challenge before this Council is to ensure an integrated follow-up process" to the meetings.

"The process must be results-oriented and systematic, and it must avoid duplication or fragmentation," he said in an address to the high-level segment of ECOSOC, a three-day meeting of senior government officials and heads of international agencies. "Let me stress again: the focus from now on must be implementing the commitments that have been made."

The Secretary-General noted that the high-level segment was focusing on the contribution of human resources development to the process of development in general, and that health and education, in particular, were the "twin pillars on which we must build the well-being of individuals, and thus a more healthy, equitable and peaceful tomorrow."

"They are mutually reinforcing: a healthy individual has a better chance of achieving his or her potential; educated individuals have a better chance of remaining healthy, and contributing to the health and development of their family, their community, and ultimately their country," Mr. Annan said.

As for the global economic situation, which was suffering its biggest setback in a decade, Mr. Annan said that poor economies were paying the highest price for the downturn and warned that only limited improvement was foreseen in the developing world for this year. “The statistics do not adequately capture the human suffering and misery generated at the level of the individual and the family,” he said.

While the past year offered the UN many challenges, the Secretary-General said, and the year ahead will again put the world body to new tests, its overall agenda and the plan of action for ECOSOC remained the Millennium Declaration – a blueprint for improving the lives of people everywhere in the 21st century.

“ECOSOC must give life to the guiding motto of the United Nations in the 21st century: putting people at the centre of everything we do,” Mr. Annan said. “It must make the implementation of the Millennium Declaration its first priority.”

Among those also speaking at this morning’s opening session were Ivan Šimonovic, President of the Council, Horst Köhler, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director of the World Bank.

Video - ECOSOC opening session

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