ECOSOC Organizational Session

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

President of ECOSOC, H.E. Ambassador Lazarous Kapambwe,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to attend the opening of the organizational session of the Economic and Social Council. I look forward to working with you on strengthening the Council’s work and DESA’s support in the months ahead.

As the Council’s basic programme of work shows, the Council in 2011 will tackle a number of critical issues, including those relating to the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education, gender equality and empowerment of women, and financing for development.

Preparations for the Council’s discussion on these issues are well under way. In this regard, I am pleased to advise the Council that DESA’s preparations for this year’s Annual Ministerial Review are firmly on track.

Mr. President,

The Council is facing several emerging challenges and tasks that will require effective UN system coordination. I would like to briefly mention three key topics that call for the Council’s attention, in addition to its basic programme of work.

The importance of the resurgent food security crisis to the Council’s agenda cannot be overstated. As we have learned, volatile food prices threaten progress toward the MDGs, and risk exacerbating social and political tensions.

As part of ECOSOC’s efforts to forge robust responses to global challenges, we must integrate food insecurity into the Council’s programme of work.

As a member of the UN High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, DESA has conducted cross-sectoral analysis on its impact on development. In 2005 and 2008, DESA produced background papers and strategies on the inter-linkages between rising food prices and ECOSOC’s agenda.

The Department is ready to work with other members of the High-level Task Force and provide coordinated support to the Council’s deliberations on this emerging challenge.

Mr. President,

Despite progress in addressing the global financial and economic crisis, the world is still feeling the aftershocks.

Millions have been pushed into extreme poverty. Unemployment remains high. Hard-won gains towards the MDG are at risk.

The multiple crises have exposed the weaknesses in international financial and economic systems and in global economic governance.

There is an urgent need to reaffirm the central of the United Nations in global economic governance.

Last month, we launched the 2011 World Economic and Social Prospects report, which is the principal United Nations report on the state of the global economy, jointly produced by DESA, UNCTAD and the five regional commissions. It addresses the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis.

DESA – through WESP and other analytical products such as the World Economic and Social Survey and monthly briefings – can help support the Council’s work on global economic governance by identifying key issues that require credible and effective policy coordination among Member States.

Mr. President,

2011 and 2012 will give ECOSOC the opportunity to shape two issues central to the UN development agenda in the decade ahead – the special situation of the least developed countries, and sustainable development.

In May, the Fourth Conference on Least Developed Countries will be held in Istanbul. The meeting is intended to add new urgency to development efforts in these countries. With better domestic policies and increased international commitment, it is estimated that half of the countries now classified as LDCs could graduate from the list by 2020. The Council’s deliberations can make a valuable contribution to this process.

As Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012, also known as Rio+20, I would like to welcome the Council’s contributions to its preparations in the year ahead.

Member States have agreed to focus Rio+20 on two themes: (1) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and (2) an institutional framework for sustainable development.

Though some remain concerned about the feasibility of a “green” transition, experience shows that, when managed properly, such shifts can advance development goals.

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year marks an important window of opportunity for ECOSOC to reinvigorate political commitment to global sustainable development.

Short-sighted responses and sector-based approaches will no longer suffice in tackling the multiple risks we currently face.

DESA’s efforts to address social, economic and environmental challenges in an integrated manner can help the Council to shape durable solutions to these issues.

I wish you a productive session. I look forward to deepening our work with the Council in our shared commitment to development.

Thank you.