Closing of the 2008 ECOSOC Substantive Session

Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the Closing of the 2008 ECOSOC Substantive Session New York, 25 July 2008

Mr. President, thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this closing session of the 2008 substantive session of ECOSOC. I would like to congratulate you and other members of the Bureau for your outstanding leadership, which lead to the successful conclusion of this landmark session. May I also take this opportunity to commend delegations for the positive spirit that prevailed throughout.

This session is the culmination of the process to implement the mandates given by the 2005 World Summit. Yet, it also marks a new beginning for the Economic and Social Council, which has been made manifest in many ways.

First and foremost is the breadth and depth of engagement. All stakeholders actively participated in the preparations and the session itself, engaging in very substantive discussions. This contributed immensely to the success of the first Development Cooperation Forum. In affording the opportunity for technical consideration of development cooperation issues, the DCF offers an important nexus between political as well as normative dialogue and technical expertise. The candid and broad-based discussions have underscored the value of an inclusive and universally recognized forum for global dialogue and policy review of international development cooperation.

Looking to the future of the DCF, let us recall the nationally-led preparatory meetings, which pulled together varied stakeholders for informal exchanges and technical deliberations. These have proven particularly effective in enabling broad interaction among stakeholders and in gauging the gaps and obstacles in international development cooperation. I encourage Member States to consider hosting such preparatory meetings for the 2010 Forum and supporting its activities.

The Annual Ministerial Review has also opened new avenues – not only for enhancing accountability, but also for strengthening the global partnership, which is at the centre of the UN development agenda. For the first time, developed countries made national presentations and provided an opportunity to the Council for an open dialogue on their development cooperation policies. I was really heartened by the candour of discussions and the determination to improve policies for better results.

I believe that the national voluntary presentations will generate new ways of exchanging lessons learned and of scaling up best practices. The website, newly launched by DESA, on “Development Strategies that Work” will provide a vehicle for spreading messages from the presentations and sharing expertise from various regions. I hope that all stakeholders will use the database and engage in dialogue through the e-forum on the website.

The Council has also demonstrated a stronger role in addressing some of today’s most pressing issues. The Annual Ministerial Review has sent an unequivocal message that all efforts should be deployed to achieve the goal of sustainable development. Otherwise, humanity faces serious risks of reversing the gains made so far. The Council also pronounced itself on the food crisis, rising oil prices, financial turmoil and, of course, climate change, which, as the Secretary-General says, is the defining challenge of our time.

Let me underscore the crux of Council’s messages on these issues. Firstly, there are no piecemeal solutions and these challenges should be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Secondly, there are no quick fixes. There is a clear need for both short-term and long-term measures. This is particularly true in the case of the food and fuel crises. Thirdly, collective action is central to the success of our efforts to find lasting and durable solutions to these challenges. ECOSOC can serve as an effective forum for launching such action. We need to fully utilize the potential of the Council.

This session has once again established the key role of ECOSOC in ensuring coherence and coordination in the activities of the UN system. The operational activities segment set in motion the implementation of the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of UN system operational activities for development – the TCPR. Similarly, the coordination segment has helped in bringing the UN system together in the pursuit of a multi-dimensional approach to the eradication of poverty and hunger.

The Council has also emphasized the need for concerted, coordinated and rapid action to address the humanitarian impact of climate change and the global food security crisis as today’s two main humanitarian challenges. We also learnt that national capacity building for local institutions – governmental and non-governmental – remains a priority. There is a clear message from this year’s humanitarian segment that further strengthening of humanitarian assistance provision is needed so that it becomes more timely, accountable, equitable and accessible.

This year the Council has advanced its work in the area of peace-building and post-conflict development. As the President has noted, the Council has again extended the mandate of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, in recognition of the role that the Council can play in supporting the country’s long-term development. My Department remains ready to continue its substantive support to the Group and to facilitate its work.

I was also encouraged by the stimulating discussion on the need to strengthen linkages between ECOSOC and the Peacebuilding Commission. We need to work further on the very useful ideas presented to the Council, and DESA, in collaboration with the Peacebuilding Support Office will pursue their implementation.

We need to build on this successful session to ensure that the Council becomes a thriving forum to deliberate and act upon the most pressing challenges of development. This will require not only political will but also thorough preparations and continuous engagement. I strongly urge countries to plan and participate in ECOSOC-related preparatory activities, particularly for the AMR and DCF. This year-round engagement will be key to the success of the next session.

My Department and I are at your service and will do whatever it takes to make ECOSOC a body that truly makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Thank you.

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