Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Closing of the 2009 ECOSOC Substantive Session
Geneva, 31 July 2009

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

I would like to congratulate you and other members of the Bureau for your outstanding leadership of the 2009 session of the Council. I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to delegations and facilitators for the positive and constructive atmosphere that prevailed – and that led to the timely adoption of the Ministerial Declaration and a number of significant resolutions. And I thank the entire UN system family of organizations for their support in making this session a singular success.

In your statement, Madame President, you have captured the essence of this session and also expressed your vision for the future. I would like to share my views and confidence in the potential of ECOSOC in advancing the development agenda. Before doing so, I would like mention that this session was held against the backdrop of the most serious economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression. We are still reeling with the negative fall out of this crisis and developing countries are facing serious challenges to their efforts to achieve the development goals. This session of the Council has helped in sending a strong message on the need for collective action to not only fix the system but also minimize the impacts on developing countries. It is heartening to note that the Council has already set in motion the process to implement the outcome of the UN General Assembly meeting on Economic and Financial Crisis and its impact on development. We should not lose any time. I would now like to focus on the six defining features of this session that have reinforced the role of Council in development.

First and foremost, this session has clearly shown that the Council provides a unique platform for weaving together the various strands of the development agenda for more effective implementation. The preparatory meetings, AMR deliberations and Ministerial Declaration have helped in placing public health at the centre of international concerns. We were able to engage different ministries and levels of government in pursuing health goals. The message is clear that development and public health must be pursued in an integrated way. More specifically, the Council also sent a message that unless we take an integrated view of the climate change crisis, the goal of achieving sustainable development, including health goals, would remain elusive. To this end, we need to work towards a successful outcome of the forthcoming meeting in Copenhagen.

Whether it is reducing maternal mortality, combating neglected tropical diseases or attaching high priority to non-communicable diseases, the Council can nurture a level of engagement which will usher change.

This session and its preparatory process will be remembered for the initiatives that it has generated. I would like to particularly mention the proposals to develop regional action plans on health literacy; establish multi-sectoral task forces to combat non-communicable diseases; initiatives to address global road safety issues and strengthening international cooperation in this field; and variety of actions to improve health outcomes. The session has laid the foundations for giving new impetus to the realization of the goals related to public health.

This brings me to the second defining feature: ECOSOC is perhaps the only Charter body in the UN that brings together so many actors. This year we have witnessed unprecedented levels of participation, not only during this session and the NGO forum that preceded it, but also in preparatory activities like the e-forum, the regional preparatory meetings, the Innovation Fair and other side events. More than 40 NGOs contributed on the issue of health either through written submissions or statements at the session. Many others also actively contributed to the preparations for the National Voluntary Presentations. I am also pleased at the recognition of the work of the NGO Committee which acknowledges the ever important role of NGOs in our society.

We have also opened new avenues for engaging ordinary citizens in the work of ECOSOC. On July, my department, in collaboration with the Government of Uganda, launched a ten-day m-Health pilot initiative, reaching out to more than 3,000 people through mobile phones.This campaign engaged citizens in a Short Message Service or “SMS” dialogue on health, encouraging them to express their views and concerns about health care. The objective was to demonstrate the potential of mobile phones in raising public awareness and collecting information in real time. This information is the basis for good policy.

I am confident that UN-DESA could develop a similar project, next year, during the preparatory process for the 2010 AMR, focused primarily on the challenges in promoting greater gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Third, the Council can closely link global deliberations with national level implementation. This was vividly evident during the very well prepared and presented national reports. The candor of the presentations was refreshing and encouraging. I am confident that this public acknowledgement of the challenges will lead to stronger action.

This national and global linkage was also evident during the operational activities segment. It was gratifying for the UN system to have the Council recognize the advances made in some areas. At the same time, the Council’s resolution provides pointed guidance on where to accelerate implementation, particularly in four areas: strengthening the resident coordinator’s role; developing comprehensive policies for human resource planning and deployment; rectifying the harmful imbalance between core and non-core resources; and harmonizing business practices of the UN system.

Fourth, the Council has shown its strengths in addressing the special concerns of countries emerging from conflict. It can look at the breadth of issues that such countries have to deal with in pursuing their development goals and building a sustainable foundation for peace. We believe that the Council should continue work in this area. At the same time, it needs to develop closer ties with the Peacebuilding Commission. As mentioned by you, Madame President, we are taking a number of steps to best utilize the respective strengths of ECOSOC and the Commission to address the challenges of post-conflict recovery and development.

Fifth, ECOSOC is the home of the international humanitarian community, which includes several large and distinguished organizations, and a range of international and national NGOs. Global vulnerabilities have increased – and our humanitarian responses must not be found wanting. We need rapid and coordinated actions. Discussions in the Council showed the greater realization of these needs, within overall adherence and respect for humanitarian principles.

Sixth, in design and in practice, ECOSOC has the central role in guiding the whole UN system in the area of development. Whether it is humanitarian issues, the work of the Chief Executives Board, follow-up to the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic and Crisis and Its impact on Development, follow-up to the Doha Review Conference or issues of gender equality, ECOSOC is the platform for generating and coordinating actions in these areas. We need to maximize this potential of ECOSOC by strategically designing the deliberations of the coordination and general segments.

Ladies and Gentlemen

With all the effort and energy that has gone into this session and its successful outcome, the work does not stop here. We have to implement the Ministerial Declaration in its entirety. DESA, in collaboration with the relevant agencies and under the leadership of the Secretary-General, will initiate action on its system-wide implementation.

And we must look ahead to the critical task the Council has set for itself next year, in focusing on gender equality and empowerment of women. In 2010, we will celebrate 15 years after the historic Beijing Conference. ECOSOC can bring a whole range of actors to embrace the mission of empowering women and combating the worst forms of discrimination and abuse.

My department has already started planning for the next session. We will work with the Bureau in developing a road map from September to July next year. I urge you all to actively engage in the national, regional and global preparatory activities – to set the stage for a successful and path breaking session next year.

I wish you a great summer. I trust you will come back refreshed and with renewed energy to work hard together.

Thank you.