Presentation by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the informal consultations of the General Assembly on follow-up to the Summit outcome on development and ECOSOC reform
New York, 1 December 2005

Co-Chairpersons, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to lead consultations on implementing the 2005 World Summit decisions regarding ECOSOC and development. This is indeed an important and challenging undertaking.

I would like to assure you of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ full support for your efforts. And I thank you for this opportunity to discuss the Department’s own efforts in the drive to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.

The World Summit has helped to crystallize the development goals, including the MDGs, into a broad and compelling UN development agenda. The Summit asserted the vital role that the conferences and summits have played in: shaping a broad development vision; identifying agreed objectives; galvanizing development policy and programmes at all levels; and guiding the work of the UN system.

The Summit also produced agreement on a number of precise steps to strengthen implementation of the conference outcomes, including the creation of a regular, politically prominent and unified system for reviewing and assessing the agenda’s implementation.

The envisioned review process would also ensure effective monitoring and the identification of concrete steps required to ensure timely and enduring implementation. This shows in the new functions assigned to the Economic and Social Council: conducting the annual reviews; convening the global Development Cooperation Forum; building its capacity to respond rapidly to developments in the economic, social, and environmental fields; and addressing humanitarian emergencies, including natural disasters.

The Summit has also decided that the Council’s existing functions—like the forum for global policy dialogue—need to be re-conceived so that the Council truly serves as a high quality platform for engaging on global development issues. It has also reasserted the Council’s central role in overall coordination and coherence of the UN system’s activities.

I would encourage you, when making your decisions on operationalizing these new functions and on re-conceiving the existing ones, to consider them organically—and to help promote strong thematic and organizational linkages among the functions and the results that they produce.

The annual ministerial review provides an opportunity for unifying the whole array of ongoing review and assessment processes. It could also spur the system-wide consolidation of tools and techniques used to measure progress in implementing conference outcomes, including the MDGs. The review should be strategically timed in order to ensure maximum ministerial participation.

Substantively, the review should cover the whole gambit of issues, yet also have a special focus. This seemingly difficult balance could be achieved by taking a global view of implementation and then concentrating on specific areas that require immediate attention. We also need to encourage national level presentations, as these would help make the reviews more relevant to individual countries.

The biennial Development Cooperation Forum has the potential to become a global hub for promoting coherence in global development cooperation. It could address the issues of strategic and programmatic coherence in bilateral, multilateral, and South-South Cooperation activities. And it could focus on a range of other issues that cut across these activities.

While deciding on the details of this Forum, we also need to address its linkages with the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR) of operational activities for development of the UN system. Although these reviews are limited to the functioning of the UN system, they address issues central to debate on international development cooperation. Similarly, the issues of coherence that the Forum would cover are also addressed in the follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus. How should the two reinforce each other?

Global policy dialogue is not a new function, but it can certainly be re-conceived in order to link it with the annual reviews and biennial Forum. It could become the vehicle through which the Council exercises leadership in addressing issues central to realizing the development agenda and that require greater multilateral cooperation.

The Summit has stated in no uncertain terms that the Council should respond to emergencies more rapidly and effectively. The recent sessions convened by the President on Food Security in Africa and on Avian flu have also demonstrated the Council’s potential to mobilize action and raise awareness of situations that pose a threat to long-term development goals. This entails two kinds of actions. Firstly, building a system-wide capacity to keep the Council informed of the potential threats to development. Second, enabling the Council to respond rapidly, including through convening emergency meetings. The same dual action also applies to the coordination of responses to humanitarian emergencies, including natural disasters. We have seen in the case of tsunami that the Council could have been more effective if it had responded in a timely fashion.

The coordination function of the Council also needs to be re-thought, not only in light of the Summit decision but also General Assembly resolution 57/270B. The resolution contains a number of significant provisions for rallying the whole ECOSOC system around the implementation of the development agenda.

The Summit has also called on ECOSOC to adapt its working methods to these functions. I believe the review of working methods is long over due. A major change would help the Council to become a more dynamic body that attracts high-level participation. This aspect of the Summit outcome needs to be approached with more ambition and vision. We really need to re-think and re-design the way Council discharges its functions. A number of ideas have already been presented, including by the former and current Presidents of ECOSOC. I am sure that this will assist your deliberations.

I would also like to share with you how we are working on Summit follow-up. The unifying perspective that I have here emphasized is also guiding our initial follow-up to the World Summit, both in DESA and in the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs—EC-ESA—which I have the privilege to chair.

EC-ESA has begun work with UNDG on Summit follow-up. Collaboration between these key groups of UN development actors will be especially important, particularly in preparing for the reviews and in providing substantive support to the Development Cooperation Forum.

Within EC-ESA, in this first phase of response to the Summit outcome, we are pursuing the following approach. Each EC-ESA entity is reviewing its own programmes and priorities. And the eleven thematic clusters of EC-ESA are also reviewing programmes and priorities within their respective areas; the aim is to propose ways to increase cooperation or new joint initiatives or institutional arrangements to support implementation of the development goals.

The effectiveness of the new system to help drive implementation will depend in no small way on the ability of EC-ESA entities to collaborate closely in support of the work of ECOSOC, the functional commissions, the regional commissions, and the expert bodies.

The same is true within DESA. The bulk of DESA’s normative, analytical, and operational work is already geared towards implementation of the development goals agreed at the major conferences and summits. To help operationalize the new system, DESA is strengthening strategic integration of the work performed by its Divisions.

DESA’s Statistics Division coordinates the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on Millennium Development Goals Indicators. The Group is now reviewing the MDG indicators, addressing in the process the new policy areas contained in the Summit outcome document. Given DESA’s experience in this area, it can certainly take the lead in consolidating the various implementation review tools now being used for the different conference follow-up processes.

DESA is also heavily engaged in providing substantive support to the global partnership for development, strongly reaffirmed at the 2005 World Summit and set out in the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

To assist in the decisions that you must take to operationalize the Summit outcomes, my Department has prepared a background document and chart on the existing mechanisms and processes for follow-up to the major conferences and the development commitments that they have produced. I invite you to have a look at them. Both have been made available in this room and posted on DESA’s website.

The document and accompanying chart are works in progress. And we will continue to improve them, to make them more comprehensive.

But you can see now from the chart alone how great the need is for a more unified review and assessment of progress in implementing the development agenda. The integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of conferences and summits by ECOSOC was a step in that direction. ECOSOC has pursued this approach for the past few years—by examining common conference themes at its coordination segment and occasionally at its high-level segment. This year a comprehensive report was presented to the substantive session on the follow-up of conferences, which provides a full picture of the UN development agenda.

So far, however, the results have fallen far short of expectations. The decision by the 2005 World Summit to establish a regular, politically prominent and unified system of review and assessment of the implementation of the goals and objectives contained in the outcomes of the summits and conferences would certainly help in providing a single, productive platform for political engagement.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that the timing for operationalizing these aspects of the Summit outcome is also very crucial. There is a pressing need to finalize the necessary decisions so that the UN system and the Council can be on track to implement them by next July.

Fact Sheet and Chart on Follow-up Mechanisms to UN Summits and Conference