Closing Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to ECOSOC High-Level Segment
Geneva, 9 July 2009

Madame President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We have come to the end of a rather intense and engaging high-level segment. We have a Ministerial Declaration and my experience is that the declarations adopted with the greatest controversy are declarations which are remembered longest. So, congratulations to all of you. What has struck me most throughout this segment is the breadth of engagement and the wide array of issues discussed.

This session is being held at a time when good news is scarce and news of suffering and adversity are abundant. Yet, we have come together and delivered a constructive and productive high-level segment of ECOSOC.

Let me take this moment to highlight some of the main messages.

First, maternal mortality received the prominence it deserved at this session. Maternal mortality and its causes – including poverty, lack of basic health care, prenatal and post-natal care, lack of education, lack of information on sexual health and reproductive and other basic rights that hamper women’s empowerment – were brought to the forefront.

We are fully aware, that poor maternal health has many ramifications for the health of the newborn and unborn child. Poor health of the mother is reflected in her children and has important consequences for future generations. It is, therefore, absolutely critical to take strong urgent action.

Second, if we are to resolve our concerns in health, we must begin with primary health care and sound health systems. Developing countries currently face serious barriers to developing strong health systems. They are mainly lack of financial capital as well as human capital. While delivering on the promises of aid is imperative, the availability of skilled health workers is equally critical. At present, many developing countries face an exodus of skilled health workers to developed countries, putting a burden on their already strained resources.

Third, the emerging challenges in health were also discussed in depth. Globalization means that diseases do not respect borders, rank or class. The H1N1 pandemic has now joined the food, fuel, climate change and financial crises in adding to our list of challenges. At the same time, developing countries brought to our attention the non-communicable diseases and injuries that were taking a toll on their populations. Moreover, previously neglected tropical diseases remain a scourge.

Fourth, the messages from the high-level policy dialogue with the international financial and trade institutions on the current developments in the world economy were sobering. They were cautious in their comments on the pace of economic recovery and its expected time frame. Recovery will be long and arduous, especially in terms of increased employment which ultimately has an important role in alleviating poverty and strengthening consumer demand. All expressed concern that developing countries will bear the brunt of the crisis.

The negative impacts of the current developments in the world economy will be exacerbated in the case of the least developed countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Fifth, on a more positive note, I would like to congratulate all those countries that made national presentations at this year’s Annual Ministerial Review. The high quality of presentations brought to light each country’s unique circumstances and perspectives, as well as their accomplishments and challenges in a clear and succinct manner. I am confident that these presentations will be valuable, first to Member States and second to ECOSOC’s work in the future.

Sixth, the broad participation and engagement from all our partners was very encouraging. It sends a message of solidarity and recognition of the fact that finding solutions to common challenges requires global involvement and resolve.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Council on the adoption of a comprehensive and action oriented Ministerial Declaration. ECOSOC, despite constraints, through dialogue and participation, is helping countries in advancing their development priorities and has given the issues of health a new platform. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the UN agencies, particularly WHO, for their tireless support to the work of ECOSOC.

Next year, we will hold the Development Cooperation Forum in New York, at which time we will see how much progress is being made in aid effectiveness. We shall also review the implementation of this year’s Declaration. This will be the proof of how far we have moved from promises to implementation. For me, this is the true test of the success of our work.

On behalf of DESA, we promise our unwavering support.

Thank you.