Statement by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the closing session of the 2006 Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council
Geneva, 28 July 2006

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come to the close of a very successful session of the Economic and Social Council. I would like to congratulate President Hachani and other Bureau members for their leadership and effective management of the Council’s proceedings. I would also like to commend all delegations for the constructive and positive atmosphere that prevailed throughout this session.

The main achievements go beyond the successful and timely conclusion of various segments. Equally important are the messages about the current and future role of the Council. I will focus on both aspects of this session in my remarks.

The Ministerial Declaration on Employment Generation and Decent Work for all identifies a number of concrete steps to further implementation of the 2005 World Summit commitment to make the goal of full and productive employment and decent work a central objective of national and international policies. This comprehensive Declaration calls for the development of ten-year action plans and assigns the Council a role in monitoring progress in its implementation.

Beyond the Declaration are a number of important aspects of the high-level segment itself that I want to underscore. Firstly, ECOSOC has shown that it can effectively address cross-cutting issues like employment in a comprehensive manner with the participation of a significant number of ministers and high-level officials, carrying diverse portfolios such as development cooperation, finance, planning and labour. This testifies to the convening power of the Council and its ability to promote coherent multisectoral approaches to implementing the UN development agenda, of which employment generation has come to occupy a central place.

Secondly, the Council has demonstrated that it can mobilize various parts of the UN system to work together in order to support its deliberations, as evident particularly in our close collaboration from the outset with the International Labour Organization, for which I would also like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Mr. Juan Somavia and his team. We look forward to working with ILO on follow-up to the Declaration.

Thirdly, timely selection of a topical theme is crucial for attracting high-level and diverse participation, as well as for achieving an outcome likely to have far-reaching impact. This lesson has important implications for our work regarding the new functions of ECOSOC, which I will address shortly.

Let me turn now to the theme of the coordination segment, which dealt with another central issue for the on-going efforts to implement the UN development agenda: how to translate economic growth into effective social development, including eradication of poverty and hunger. It became clear during the deliberations that we do not have definite answers in this regard. The Council has thus asked the UN system to continue to study this question.

Another important feature of the coordination segment was the follow-up event on Avian Flu. Discussions during this panel demonstrated the importance of ECOSOC’s coordinating role and its ability to shape responses to emerging challenges of this nature.

The operational activities and humanitarian affairs segments showed that no other inter-governmental body can cover those two respective areas of work so comprehensively.

During the operational activities segment, ECOSOC launched the triennial review of funding for development cooperation. This review has highlighted the diverging trends between core and non-core resource flows, the increasing complexity of funding mechanisms, the need to demonstrate results and impact, the multiplication of specific funds, and the challenges associated with the financial sustainability of the UN system’s development cooperation efforts.

The substantive resolution adopted by the Council on operational activities demonstrates its determination to perform its oversight and guiding role by providing detailed guidance to the UN development system to improve its functioning at the country level, as well as guidance to the UN Secretariat to strengthen its assessment and analytical work. This also bodes well for the ongoing efforts to strengthen the links between the UN’s operational and normative work.

During the humanitarian affairs segment, the Council held productive discussions on two of the most crucial issues in humanitarian emergencies: gender-based violence and chronically under-funded emergencies. The segment’s outcome also addresses critical matters like capacity-building, civil-military coordination and the importance of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund. The Council called for a better division of labour between the General Assembly and itself, as well as for consolidation of the humanitarian agenda in the plenary of the Assembly. The forthcoming session of the Assembly will have to look into this issue.

From the array of issues covered in the general segment, I would like to highlight the decisions dealing with the Ad-hoc Advisory Groups on countries emerging from conflict and the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society. The resolutions on the former have once again established the primary importance of ECOSOC in the area of long-term sustainable development in post-conflict situations. Continuation of the groups on Haiti and Guinea Bissau shows this. While Burundi will be handled by the Peacebuilding Commission, there is a consensus in the Council that lessons learnt and experiences gained through ECOSOC’s work should be brought to the attention of the various relevant UN bodies. The Secretariat will work with the President and the Bureau of the Council to disseminate this information. I believe that the Council should continue to strengthen its role in the long-term sustainable development of post-conflict countries. At the same time, it should work closely with the Peacebuilding Commission to deal with post-conflict situations requiring urgent attention.

The Council has achieved a major breakthrough in crystallizing its own role and the role of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development in the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society. Agreement on a clear and well-defined intergovernmental process, including the additional new tasks for the Commission, together with strong multi-stakeholder engagement in the Global Alliance for ICT and Development are certainly welcome developments and could go a long way in strengthening the UN’s role in the area of information and communications technology for development. Yet these are just first steps; we need now to work collectively to ensure that the potential of ICT for achieving the internationally agreed development goals is fully realized. Notably, the process leading towards the adoption of this resolution also brought various parts of the UN system, namely, DESA, UNCTAD, ITU and UNESCO together. I hope that this collaboration will become a permanent feature of our future work in this area.

Mr. President,

I would now like to turn to the future role of ECOSOC. The dialogue with the co-chairs and some members of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence helped to underscore the central role that ECOSOC has in the coordination of the UN system—indeed, as the organ specifically tasked by the UN Charter to do precisely that job. The dialogue also pointed up the Council’s role in strengthening the links between the normative and operational activities of the UN system, an issue I referred to earlier. Nonetheless, the role of ECOSOC in guaranteeing the coherence of the system must be matched both by stronger powers and more effective functioning of the Council.

The roundtables held during the high-level segment on the new functions of the Council, the Annual Ministerial Reviews of implementation of the outcomes of the major UN conferences and summits and the biennial Development Cooperation Forum, provide an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate the usefulness of ECOSOC in a renewed global governance. Let me capture in some key messages the very useful discussions that we had on these two functions.

The Annual Ministerial Review has the potential to become the major mechanism to strengthen accountability for international commitments to the agreed development goals and thus for implementation of the UN development agenda by all partners. And the Review should serve as an important platform for promoting unified implementation, by building on the existing reviews, including those by the Council’s functional and regional commissions.

The Development Cooperation Forum will provide the first global platform where all actors involved have an opportunity to engage in a dialogue on the key policy issues affecting development cooperation, in all its forms: multilateral, North-South and South-South. The Forum could promote mutual accountability of donors and recipient countries for living up to international commitments relating to national ownership, alignment, harmonization, scaling-up resources and development results. It would also need to build effective collaborative arrangements with organizers of related fora that influence global and regional policy making in these areas.

For both new functions of the Council, high quality documentation, based on the latest and best available data, and wide participation of stakeholders need to characterize the preparatory process. The effectiveness of the Review and the Forum will depend greatly on intense follow-up, in which the full engagement of all stakeholders will also be required. We look forward to engaging in this task even more actively with our colleagues in the UN system, as well as the Bretton-Woods Institutions, OECD and its Development Assistance Committee, and regional actors. To secure these essential ingredients, the Council and its subsidiary bodies, as well as the Secretariat entities that support them, will need to adopt some innovative approaches.

The new functions have, therefore, the potential to revitalize the role assigned by the UN Charter to ECOSOC as the body for policy coherence. To ensure, however, that these functions are operationalized effectively, we need urgently to take a number of steps.

First, the General Assembly resolution on ECOSOC should be finalized expeditiously. The two co-chairs have already announced a plan for consultations with a view to completing the work by 8 September. The Council’s own work on these two functions should intensify immediately following the adoption of the resolution.

Second, we need to launch the preparatory processes for the new functions at the intergovernmental level and within the UN system. While we have already initiated work with EC-ESA entities and with UNDG, the Council may like to initiate work with its subsidiary bodies and guide them as to how they can contribute to these two functions. The Bureau may also initiate consultations with all relevant stakeholders—among them civil society and the private sector—to seek their active cooperation and participation in the Annual Review and biennial Forum.

Third, Member States need to sensitize their capitals, particularly ministers, about the importance of these two new functions.

In short, Mr. President, ECOSOC is in a critical transitional period in its work. We need to be bold and ambitious, and we need to think outside the box. In this new season of reform and revival at the United Nations, there is a real opportunity to make a qualitative advance in the ECOSOC’s impact and influence. It is time to be courageous in implementing the vision projected by the World Summit last year. It is time to build on the strengths of ECOSOC. It is time to change the image and reality of this central instrument for international economic and social cooperation for development. It is time to make it a true “Parliament for Global Development”, both in practice and perception. This will also go a long way towards reinforcing the image of the UN as the hope and the advocate for the poor, deprived and destitute.

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity also to express my deepest appreciation to Mr. Sarbuland Khan, DESA’s Director for ECOSOC support, who will be leaving the service of the Council this month. This is his last ECOSOC substantive session. He has brought many innovations to the work of this Council. For Sarbuland, supporting ECOSOC has been not only a profession but also a passion. His contributions are many, but both here in ECOSOC and in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs we will miss most his dynamism and creativity. I wish him well in his next career and look forward to working with him again in other capacities.

I would like to wish you all a relaxing and productive summer break, which is not going to be long, as we resume consultations on ECOSOC resolution during the last week of August. This is just an indication of how tirelessly we need to work to ensure that the new functions of ECOSOC will really rejuvenate this central instrument of the UN.

Thank you and Au revoir.