Opening Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Meeting of the Bureau of the Economic and Social Council with the Chairpersons of the Functional Commissions
New York, 29 January 2010

Mr. President,
Distinguished Chairpersons,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every January, Chairpersons of the functional commissions meet with the Bureau of ECOSOC. I consider this a great initiative. For some of you, this represents perhaps the only opportunity for a brief dialogue with your fellow functional commission chairs and with the ECOSOC Bureau.

This is also one of those rare moments when I feel that ECOSOC is more than just the Council. It reminds me that the Economic and Social Council is a Charter body – a main body of the United Nations, supported by a range of dedicated intergovernmental bodies.

A prominent trend in 2009 was the growth of smaller decision-making structures which were less transparent and inclusive. While such structures have purpose, the overall trend puts great pressure on multilateral decision-making bodies such as the Council.

Indeed, you may recall, as the full impact of the global financial and economic crisis was unfolding early last year, there was a frantic search for a new global mechanism to deal with the crisis. At that point, some delegates in New York pointed out that we have the Economic and Social Council. Support the Council, and let it do its Charter-mandated job.

I share that view. That is why I am truly delighted to join you today and to listen to your deliberations on how the functional commissions can contribute to the Council’s work, including its Annual Ministerial Review.

I would like to thank you, Mr. President, as well as the members of the ECOSOC Bureau, and the Chairs of functional commissions, for this opportunity to raise this point of the Council’s untapped potential.

Let me say a few words here on the Annual Ministerial Review. The Annual Ministerial Review, an innovative feature of the reform of the Council, provides us with a common global platform to bring together, and build on, the work of the functional commissions. The special focus of the functional commissions and the diversity of the inputs from them to the Council, represent the veritable strength of the Council. In this connection, I want to ask – where in the UN system can we find an intergovernmental body as diverse, yet as unified, as the Council?

Comprehensive reviews carried out along the functional lines serve as a powerful and visible vehicle to address gaps in implementation, clarify responsibilities and ensure that the outcomes of the major conferences and summits reviewed by the commissions are mutually reinforcing when brought to the Council.

At the centre of all these efforts is the core of the Council’s central function – ensuring coherence and effective coordination at the intergovernmental level and within the UN system in achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs. Each functional commission has its specific contributions to make and good examples to share.

We are particularly mindful that, during these times of multiple crises, the Council’s effectiveness depends on its ability to deliver clear, coherent and focused policy guidance and coordination in the development work undertaken by the entire ECOSOC system. We support its inclusive efforts, and, indeed, the larger need to strengthen multilateral institutions as a powerful force for equity and social justice.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs is proud to provide secretariat support to facilitate the Council’s work on better coherence and coordination. I am proud to point out that my department provides substantive support to the majority of the Council’s commissions and expert bodies. My department is committed to developing innovative approaches, and recommending practical ways, to ensure systematic contributions by the subsidiary machinery to the Council’s deliberations.

It is in this context, Mr. President, that we strongly support today’s meeting. I believe this meeting provides an excellent opportunity for an in-depth discussion on ways to strengthen the Council’s deliberations, including its AMR this summer and on ways to make the ECOSOC system work better - substantively and organizationally.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Chairpersons,

A top priority this year is the MDG summit. The resolution of the General Assembly on the Summit calls for specific contributions by the Council. I am looking forward to hearing suggestions from the Bureau and Chairs of functional commissions on how the Council can support the Assembly in its High-level Plenary Meeting on MDGs.

At the secretariat level, DESA is working with other UN partners to provide a high quality report for Member States on the substantive scope of the summit. We will collaborate to produce a special edition of the annual Millennium Development Goals report and the Report of the MDG Gap Task Force report. We will support civil society participation. We will help in the involvement of philanthropic foundations and the private sector. We will help generate the political momentum.

Mr. President,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our meeting today also provides a timely opportunity for an open discussion of the long-standing challenge of how to align the work programmes and priorities of the functional commissions systematically, and in a balanced way, with the core policy areas addressed by the Council.

Ultimately, this should enable those commissions that deal with closely related parts of the UN development agenda to strive to build stronger synergies among themselves and to contribute to the AMR in a coherent and coordinated way.

The adoption by the Council of a multi-year programme of work provides the needed predictability that was lacking in the past and which could help the functional commissions plan their contributions more effectively in advance.

At last year’s meeting, several proposals were made on ways to enhance synergy and coherence between the work of the commissions, relevant expert bodies and the Council. These included the need for better alignment of the agendas of each commission with the work of ECOSOC, the holding of expert panels during their sessions, and increased interaction between the Council and its functional commissions. I would like to encourage the functional commissions to continue to strive for these goals.

I would also like to request from each of you suggestions on what could be done by the Council in respect to its linkages with its subsidiary machinery.

I am confident that there are untapped potentials to strengthen our collective work. I look forward to an interesting dialogue today.

Thank you.