Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the Annual Conference on the International Association of Economic and social Councils and Similar Institutions (AICESIS)

Mr. Chairperson,
Presidents of Economic and Social Councils,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure today to address the final session of the eleventh annual conference of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions (AICESIS).

Let me begin by complimenting Mr. Antonio Marzano, President of AICESIS for ably organizing this conference. This has been a productive and dynamic event and I thank you for the hard work that was behind it. I also congratulate you on the growth of your organization. The welcoming of eight new members from Africa, Europe and Latin America is a significant and promising development.

The steady increase in the number of economic and social councils (ESCs) throughout the world is also very good to see. Through their work with governments, ESCs contribute to the creation of more inclusive and democratic policies, programmes and institutions. They facilitate citizen engagement in public policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. In doing so, they provide invaluable services to their fellow citizens.

ESCs, with their unique positions of responsibility and influence at the national level, are also invaluable partners of the United Nations. Your contributions at ECOSOC are so important in keeping civil society perspectives front and centre on the development agenda.

I am pleased with the work that DESA and AICESIS have done on building a global knowledge network for economic and social councils. It will serve as a training and information sharing tool for your institutions and future ESCs.

As this meeting ends and we look to the future, I would like to emphasize the need for ESCs to be more actively involved in the less developed regions of the world. Nations with high poverty rates and high incidence of hunger, disease, maternal and infant mortality need, among so many other resources, greater representation through ESCs.

The large migration of people from the countryside to urban areas in developing countries has increased the need for economic and social councils. Many governments are unable to provide citizens in overcrowded cities with essential services. Teeming slums of disconnected and voiceless people have resulted. ESCs are in a unique position to help these populations through advocacy and training in grassroots democratic initiatives. Please consider, ladies and gentlemen, how your councils can reach out to and help these vulnerable populations in developing countries, especially in urban areas.

I would also like to emphasize, as the Secretary-General did in his opening statement last week, that we need your assistance in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Our 2010 report presents accomplishments in some areas, but overall progress is uneven and fragile. The United Nations is reliant on national governments to meet the commitments they have made.

Please make every effort to influence the policies and programmes of your local, regional and national governments. The Goals must remain central on all agendas. I thank you in advance for your vigilance in this regard. Your role as civil society representatives cannot be underestimated as 2015, the deadline for achieving the Goals, draws near.

It is my firm belief that when international organizations, governments and civil society join forces, we can reduce poverty, improve standards in health and education, take better care of our environment, and achieve economic growth for all.

Thank you for your work with AICESIS and for your commitment to creating a better world.

I bid you farewell and wish you continued success in your future work.