Colombian ambassador elected as head of UN Economic and Social Council

Newly-elected President of ECOSOC Néstor Osorio of Colombia (left) is congratulated by outgoing President Miloš Koterec of the Slovak Republic. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

28 January 2013 – Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia was elected today to serve as President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), marking the annual handover of leadership for one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and the main body tasked with confronting the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges.

Upon his election, Mr. Osorio acknowledged the range of issues facing the Council in the coming year while presenting several reforms that he argued would do ECOSOC “particular good.” These include improving ECOSOC’s working methods, harmonizing the work of the functional commissions with that of the Council, and rendering the Council more nimble and effective.

“If we want to strengthen the work of ECOSOC, particularly with respect to the successful implementation of sustainable development policies and the UN Development Agenda, we must strengthen our institutions,” he told the gathering at UN Headquarters in New York. “We must use this opportunity to strengthen ECOSOC and its impact, joining with our partners to make extreme poverty a relic of the past and sustainable development a reality of our future.”

Mr. Osorio celebrated ECOSOC’s “crucial” role within the world body, adding that another prominent task for the Council in 2013 would involve following up on last June’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil.

“The key role of the Council in achieving a balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development will be critical in integrating the poverty eradication agenda with sustainable development,” he concluded.

For his part, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo thanked the outgoing President, Miloš Koterec of Slovakia, and congratulated Mr. Osorio on his new role at the helm of the Council, stating that the Colombian’s leadership came during a period of transition crucial for the future of the planet.

“As we chart a course towards sustainable development, the transition that lies ahead of us is not optional, but is inevitable,” Mr. Wu declared. “Our planet simply cannot sustain nine billion inhabitants aspiring for higher standards of living, if we remain entrenched in our unsustainable consumption.”

Citing a Chinese proverb capturing the importance of establishing a framework of sustainability for the benefit of future generations, Mr. Wu added that 2013 would be “a very important year” for the Council with regards to development issues.

“The Sustainable Development Goals will begin to take shape,” he continued. “We are also launching the process on strategies for financing sustainable development. Discussions on the high-level political forum are going to start soon,” he added, referring to one of the outcomes of Rio+20.

Mr. Wu pointed to the work done in Brazil where “new vistas” had been opened for ECOSOC, providing “new momentum” for the strengthening of the UN body.

“We are now moving from the collection of proposals and ideas, towards important negotiations,” he concluded. “I am confident that His Excellency Mr. Osorio will use his leadership so that ECOSOC takes full advantage of these opportunities.”

In his address to the Council, Mr. Koterec highlighted the work done during his tenure, which, he said, had been a challenging one with difficulties spurred by the continuing global financial crisis and its rippling after-effects.

“In the face of continued food price volatility, we have had to ask ourselves if high food prices are becoming the ‘new normal,’ jeopardizing the survival of many and turning back the development of recent years,” Mr. Koterec stated.

He also spotlighted the rapid growth in youth unemployment across the globe as a cause for increasing concern and warned that the world’s young people were among the most affected by the economic downturn.

“Youth unemployment has skyrocketed in recent years, causing unprecedented youth unemployment rates across the globe,” Mr. Koterec noted.

He pointed out that around the world there were 74 million unemployed young people, many of them in the global South, but also underscored ECOSOC’s efforts to mitigate the widespread problem through the UN-backed Youth Forum, which he said had been “highly successful” in addressing the challenges faced by young people in the global job market.

Expressing hope that the initiative would mark the beginning of “an ever deeper involvement of young people” in ECOSOC’s activities, the outgoing President added that the numerous problems facing the world in 2013 “illustrated once again the need for a strong and effective UN.”

“We in ECOSOC have to continue to work hard to deliver on our mandate and bring about a better world,” he urged.

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