Opening Statement to the Economic and Social Council, High-Level Segment Preparatory Meeting by Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs 16 March 2005

Mr. President,

I am delighted to join you as the Council, under your leadership, begins its preparatory work for this year’s High Level segment. This year’s theme, on achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, and implementing the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, is a recognition of the important role that ECOSOC can and must play in the preparation of the review of the Millennium Declaration at the September Summit. I am confident that the discussions in these Roundtables, led by key agencies of the UN system, will make an important contribution to both the High Level Segment of ECOSOC’s substantive session later this year and also to the Summit.

The report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change has recently stressed the interconnection between security and development. At the same time, we should never forget that development, as an objective in and of itself, has been at the centre of the United Nations since its very inspection. The Conferences and Summits of the 1990s and early 2000s have made it clear what Development means to the Member States of the United Nations, by spelling out its social, gender, economic and environmental dimensions, and the way it should be expressed in cooperation with developing countries and, particularly, with the most vulnerable among them. This “United Nations Development Agenda”, that has been the result of the major Conferences and Summits, including the Millennium Summit, represents the specific contribution of the United Nations to the formation of dynamic and equitable societies in the current era of globalization, and has had a profound impact—perhaps the deepest in the history of the United Nations—on national and international policy making. The MDGs, as a concrete expression of this Development Agenda, have come to occupy a major place in the design of development strategies and have rightly become the driving force of international cooperation for development.

The outcomes of the global conferences, the resolutions and agreed conclusions of intergovernmental bodies, are roadmaps for action at national and international levels. Resulting from global consensus, they are policy instruments that are expected to inform Governmental action. As you know, Mr. President, ECOSOC has been engaged in promoting the integrated and coordinated follow-up to major United Nations Conferences and Summits, and is actively engaged in the follow-up of specific conferences through its Functional Commissions. As early as 1995 the Council initiated work on an integrated follow-up by focusing on the common themes of the conferences as a means to enhance the impact of follow-up activities and to optimize results. The roundtables that you will participate in over the next two days are designed around these common themes, including the development goals set by the Millennium Declaration. The General Assembly also decided in resolution 57/270B that the Economic and Social Council should review by means of a cross-sectoral approach the progress in the implementation of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits and their follow-up processes. The work towards a multi-year work programme has begun and I hope will gain momentum through the dialogue over the next two days.

Mr. President,

A number of ten-year reviews of conferences and summits have recently taken place, including of the International Conference on Population and Development, of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of the Small Island Developing States, of the World Summit for Social Development and, most recently, of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The reviews have pointed to a mixed record with some positive developments but with many hopes and expectations left unfulfilled. It is no surprise, therefore, that great emphasis is being placed by Member States as well as the United Nations system on the need to move from policy-making to implementation and from rhetoric to action. We in the Secretariat, and I can confidently speak for my colleagues in the rest of the UN system, fully share this commitment and will strive, to the extent we can, to address the implementation gap. Some of the obstacles to progress in meeting the targets established by conferences and summits present a formidable challenge, such as, among others, the availability of financial resources. No doubt, Professor Sachs, a great advocate for the implementation of the MDGs, will speak to that issue shortly.

Our most formidable challenge in meeting the goals and targets of conferences and summits is to find the best ways of assisting Africa, the least developed and landlocked developing countries, the ones most marginalized in the global economy. Building human capabilities, national administrative capacity, strong production systems, technological capabilities and quality infrastructure, and resolving conflict are the critical elements in this effort.

I would also like to thank the organizations of the UN system for participating so actively in the organization of these Roundtables. Many of these organizations are on the frontline of assisting Governments in meeting the goals and targets of the conferences and summits at the national level. On a personal note, I am very pleased that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs is entrusted with providing substantive servicing to a number of the Functional Commissions responsible for the monitoring and follow-up of a number of these conferences and summits. We are committed to ensuring that they effectively carry out their mandates.

2005 is a crucial year for all of us. It is year that must end with consensus on the way forward for the revitalization of the United Nations as a whole. The 2005 ECOSOC High level Segment is one of the major events expected to contribute in a substantive way to the 2005 Summit on the review of the Millennium Declaration and UN Reform. The Council has before it the challenge of placing once again the goals and targets of major United Nations conferences and summits at the centre of the raison d’être of the United Nations. Allow me thus to extend to you my support as you embark on this important preparatory work.