Since 1998, the United Nations Economic and Social Council has held a special high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions immediately after the Spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The origin for these meetings can be found in the context of UN reform measures adopted at the fiftieth session of the General Assembly, specifically in Assembly resolution 50/227. The meetings are meant to facilitate a free-flowing dialogue among ministers of finance returning from the Washington meetings, on the one hand, and ministers of development cooperation as well as ministers and high-level officials of foreign affairs, on the other. Civil society and private sector representative have also participated in these meetings.
The first meeting, in 1998, was held against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis, and ministers discussed how to maintain the focus on long-term development amidst economic and financial upheavals. The meeting in 1999 addressed the functioning of international financial markets and stability in financing for development, in the broader context of issues related to promoting recovery, ensuring cross-sectoral coherence and mobilizing the cooperation of all actors in the development process. In 2000, the meeting discussed the theme of strengthening international financial arrangements and eradicating poverty. In 2001, the meeting addressed two themes: (a) development financing, in particular poverty eradication, official development assistance, and debt; and (b) a development-friendly international financial system: public and private responsibility in the prevention of financial crises. The topic of the 2002 meeting was "Dialogue on the outcome of the International Conference on Financing for Development and of the meetings of the Development Committee and International Monetary and Financial Committee." The meeting, just one month after the International Conference on Financing for Development, which adopted, in March 2002, the Monterrey Consensus, was the first opportunity to lay down the foundation for "staying engaged" as called for in the Consensus. In 2003 the meeting undertook "an overall assessment of progress in implementation of the Monterrey Consensus at all levels". In 2004 the meeting addressed the impact of private investment and trade related issues on financing for development, the role of multilateral institutions in reaching the MDGs and debt sustainability in six roundtables under the overall theme of "Coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus". Participation and full engagement of an unprecedented number of Executive Directors in both the meeting itself and the preparatory process enriched the event.
These ECOSOC meetings have been considered important for deepening the dialogue between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and for strengthening their partnership for achieving the development goals agreed at the global conferences of the nineties. In the Millennium Declaration, Heads of State and Government declared their resolve to strengthen further the Economic and Social Council, building on its recent achievements, to help it fulfill the role ascribed to it in the UN Charter. The Assembly subsequently encouraged the deepening of the dialogue between the Council and the Bretton Woods Institutions in the special high-level meetings.