General Assembly Takes Up 2011 Report on the Work of Economic and Social Council

19 October 2011
GA/11159

General Assembly Takes Up 2011 Report on the Work of Economic and Social Council

19 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/11159
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

36thMeeting (AM)

General Assembly Takes Up 2011 Report on the Work of Economic and Social Council

Gathering this morning to evaluate the work of the Economic and Social Council in 2011, General Assembly delegates upheld the 54-member body’s importance while urging that its coordination functions be strengthened, that it more fully address “hard core economic issues”, and press for reform of the global financial and economic system.

Presenting the report on the Economic and Social Council, Vice President Miloš Kotorec said the Council had become a “quality forum for debate”, but there was a gap in addressing hard core economic issues, such as financing.  The economic health of the planet was crucial, as was a focus on employment, which would be the focus of the next Annual Ministerial Review.  Employment was fundamental to development and the sustainability of the planet in the long run.  “No true progress is achievable in any field […] without the clear inclusion of employment in an action agenda,” he stressed.

Concurring, the delegate of Senegal said that, first and foremost, the Council should better integrate economic ideas into its activities — particularly its development strategies.

Morocco’s representative noted that, while crises, such as the economic downturn and climate change, had called into question development gains that had already been achieved, they had also encouraged the world to embark upon an important debate on global economic governance.

India’s representative said that there was clear recognition that global economic governance needed wider participation from developing countries, especially in the decision-making structures of the Bretton Woods institutions.  “Without sharing prosperity, there can be no just and equitable world,” she said.

Taking note of the Council’s agreement on basic principles for an advisory body on reforms in global economic governance, including of the global financial regulatory system, Russian Federation’s representative said that a mutually beneficial relationship between the Organization and international financial and trade institutions was a priority.  He also supported strengthening the Council’s coordinating role, and called for effective review of interagency activities.

Recognizing recent initiatives to improve inter-institutional and intergovernmental coordination by the Council, the delegate of Brazil said that the 54-member body still needed further strengthening in that area.  He noted the increasing importance of the Annual Ministerial Review in addressing key issues of the development agenda and of the Development Cooperation Forum, which could evolve into the main forum for such cooperation, if strengthened by holding annual meetings and producing a negotiated outcome document.

On the other topic of today’s debate, the integrated and coordinatedfollow-up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields, Brazil’s representative said that the multifaceted follow-up mechanism to the financing for development process, adopted by the Council in 2009, did not ensure proper consideration of the matter.  A functional follow-up mechanism was needed.

Also speaking today were representatives of Honduras and Belarus.

The General Assembly will next convene at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, 21 October, for the election of five non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Background

The General Assembly met today for its joint debate on the report of the Economic and Social Council and matters regarding the integrated and coordinated implementation and follow-up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.

For today’s discussion, the Assembly had before it the Report of the Economic and Social Council for 2011 (document A/66/3),a nine-chapter preliminary version of those sections of the Council’s report relating to the organizational and resumed organizational sessions for 2011, and the 54-member body’s substantive session of 2011.

The report covers various matters, including those calling for action by, or brought to the attention of, the Assembly and the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The remaining chapters focus on the work of the Council’s 2011 substantive session, including its high-level policy segment, operational activities segment, coordination segment, humanitarian segment and general segment, as well as elections, nominations, confirmations and appointments and other organizational matters.

A note by the Secretary-General (document A/66/263) transmits the report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the United Nations Population Award 2011, which says that Professor Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi of Iran was selected as the laureate in the individual category, and the Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographique, based in Cameroon, in the institutional category.

The Committee selected Professor Abbasi-Shavazi for his contribution to understanding the dynamics of fertility decline in Iran, by demonstrating linkages between women’s improved education and status — particularly, facilitating access to reproductive health services — and smaller families; improving the understanding of values and beliefs related to family and demographic behaviour, through studies in nearly 20 countries demonstrating that social, economic and cultural differences among countries are more important than religion as explanations of fertility differentials, and that gender equality, delayed marriage and lower fertility are both causes and consequences of socio-economic development; and for his success in serving as a bridge between the world’s outstanding demographers and Iranian scholars and programme managers.

The Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographique was chosen in recognition of its achievements since 1972:  training African population specialists, including more than 500 African demographers; conducting research relevant to understanding African population issues in the areas of poverty, sexual and reproductive health, gender and demography, and migration; conducting research on the links between population, environment and development, critical to capacity-building and policymaking in more than 26 countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean region; offering technical support enabling countries to conduct population censuses, establish local research activities, provide local training, create and manage databases, and provide advice on formulating and evaluating population policies; and producing respected, high-quality scientific publications, including the Bulletin de Liaison.

Also before the Assembly was a note by the Secretariat on Human Security (document A/66/160), stating that, on 16 July 2010, the Assembly adopted resolution 64/291 (2011), which noted the ongoing efforts to define the notion of human security, and recognized the need to continue discussion and achieve an agreement on its definition in the Assembly.  To that end, the Secretary-General was requested to seek the views of Member States on the notion and to submit a report to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session.  The report requires extensive consultations with all stakeholders to propose a possible definition, which are expected to continue through 2011.  The report will be submitted to the General Assembly, for its consideration, in May 2012.

Remarks by the Vice-President of Economic and Social Council

MILOŠ KOTOREC ( Slovakia), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, speaking on behalf of the Council’s President, summarized the body’s work or the year and noted that the 2011 Annual Ministerial Review had focused on education.  Educational needs had been addressed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in three regional conferences in the 1960s, and had been a fundamental interest of the United Nations from the start.

The debate had benefited from wide and varied participation, including senior Government representatives and a record number of non-State actors, he said, noting that the Millennium Development Goals represented minimal standards for improving education.  The education segment of the Council’s annual session had highlighted the importance of the “Education for All” initiative, as well as improving educational outcomes and teaching quality.  Participants focused on the need to plan, in this respect, beyond the 2015 Millennium Goals deadline.  Participants adopted a Ministerial Declaration, elaborating both challenges and actions going forward.  One, of many, proposals was the establishment of a United Nations educational trust fund.

Among the Council’s other activities, he spoke of the quadrennial policy review of the United Nations system.  He also noted that the Council’s humanitarian affairs segment had demonstrated its ability to react quickly to emergency situations in areas such as the Horn of Africa, and to manage humanitarian clusters efficiently.  In its resolution on South Sudan, the Council had decided to monitor the new country and its implementation of the Millennium Goals, and to ensure that support for the country would be provided.  The Council had also reviewed the report of its ad hoc Advisory Group on Haiti.

The Council had become a “quality forum for debate”, but there was a gap in addressing “hard core economic issues”, such as financing.  The economic health of the planet was crucial, as was a focus on employment, which would be the focus of the next Ministerial Review.  Employment was fundamental to development and the sustainability of the planet in the long run.  “No true progress is achievable in any field […] without the clear inclusion of employment in an action agenda,” he stressed.

Statements

VIPLOVE THAKUR, ( India), said that the Economic and Social Council was the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on issues of economic and social development.  It had been singularly successful in promoting an integrated and coordinated implementation of the commitments made under the major United Nations conferences and summits.  Through the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum, the Council had been able to review efforts to achieve internationally agreed development goals.  In particular, she said, the Review’s annual focus on a single Millennium Development Goals target — such as its focus this year on Goal 2 (on education), had helped to accelerate implementation.  India also welcomed the oversight role of the Council with regards to its functional commissions and committees, and appreciated the recent decisions to take corrective actions in maintaining the global body’s “sanctity”.

There was clear recognition that global economic governance needed wider participation from developing countries, she continued, especially in the decision-making structures of the Bretton Woods institutions.  India was hopeful that the Council would play a proactive role in achieving that objective.  “Without sharing prosperity, there can be no just and equitable world”, she stressed.  In that vein, the 10-Year Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, adopted earlier this year, sought only a “minimum commitment” from the global community.

More was needed, she stressed, in the form of stepped-up external support, including official development assistance (ODA), foreign direct investments and trade.  With just four years remaining until the Millennium Goal deadline, follow-up action on all United Nations summits and conferences needed to be pushed.  “The global economic uncertainties should not become an excuse for inaction on our development agenda, more so when the economic recovery itself would get a boost from addressing the development deficit,” she stressed, urging countries to meet their 0.7 per cent (ODA) commitments as soon as possible.

MARY E. FLORES ( Honduras) expressed her satisfaction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and gave special mention to the humanist content of the UNDP report entitled “People-Centred Development [2010-2011]”.  Recently, she added, the UNDP Executive Board also approved the Programme for Honduras [2012-2016].  “It is no secret that, despite the best efforts that have been made, many countries are still far from achieving, by 2015, the desired Millennium Development Goals,” she said, adding that Honduras itself struggled with the goals relating to water supply, sanitation and nutrition.  It seemed the country moved from one crisis to another, from the collapse of the financial systems to the collapse of the markets that bought the little which Honduras sold.  Tomorrow, she added, the next crisis could arrive as the “warning sirens and red alerts that sent the unhinged economies of the world to the brink of involution”.

Compounding those crises were other mishaps and failures, as well as a large accumulated social debt, she continued.  Honduras had achieved hardly any significant impact on the high levels of poverty in which more than half of its population lived.  “It is not a complaint, or justification that pleads for sympathy.  It is simply the hard reality,” she said, adding that “the mountain of problems does not appear to grow smaller.”  In the international fight to achieve the Millennium Goals, it was necessary to be more forceful in establishing policies for rapid job creation and strengthening household incomes.

In that vein, she underscored that Hondurans would continue to leave their country to find work elsewhere if they could not find jobs at home that enabled them to live in dignity.  Honduras acknowledged some progress made in areas overseen by the Economic and Social Council, she said, and it would continue to support related reforms that ensured the elimination of barriers to women’s participation, increased technical cooperation, improved electoral transparency and efficiency, and others.

DMITRY I. MAKSIMYCHEV ( Russian Federation) called the Council an important forum in which to formulate fundamental principles for social and humanitarian cooperation and welcomed the multi-year programme of work of the Annual Ministerial Review on progress toward the Millennium Goals.  He noted that, in 2012, the Russian Federation would put forward a National Voluntary Presentation on productive capacity, employment and decent work in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels towards achieving the Goals.  Overall, the work of the Council’s main session had borne positive results, he said.

The high-level segment this year had produced socio-economic priorities for the Organization’s agenda and had given a powerful impetus to its educational interests.  Its Ministerial Declaration called for greater access to education and improving the quality and working conditions of teachers, and the best use of resources to ensure fair economic growth based on full employment.  He took note of the Council’s agreement, in response to the United Nations conference on the financial and economic crisis, on basic principles for an advisory body on reforms in that area, including of the global financial regulatory system.  The Council had also confirmed its key role in international follow-up on finance for development.

He said that a mutually beneficial relationship between the Organization and international financial and trade institutions was a priority for the Russian Federation.  Supporting strengthening of the Council’s coordinating role, he called for effective review of interagency activities including the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.  A mechanism was needed through which Member States could regularly assess its activities and adjust its priorities.  A priority, for strengthening the Council, was to clarify mandates for the separate stages of the Council’s substantive session, particularly as regarded the coordination segment.

ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) said voluntary national presentations were among the most important and unique mechanisms of mutual accountability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  She urged strengthening the Council’s coordinating role on the Goals, including in the elaboration of further steps to achieve them by 2015.  The annual ministerial meetings and the Development Cooperation Forums could become the main forums to discuss those issues and she proposed the 2013 Review take place under the theme “The [Millennium Development Goals] agenda after 2015”, adding that a new energy architecture also would be important for attaining the Goals.

Supporting periodic review of operational activities for development, she welcomed the upcoming discussion by the United Nations funds and programmes on their common strategy for supporting low- and middle-income countries.  She also commended the Council’s high-level meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and WTO, among other world entities.  “The activities of the [Economic and Social Council] should, to a larger extent, be aligned with solutions to the urgent problems experienced by [United Nations] Member States,” she said, underlining that Belarus was keen to contribute to that work, including as a Council member if elected to that “vital” entity.

TARIK IZIRAREN ( Morocco) said that the current discussion should symbolize the synergies and harmonization between the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council.  The report before the Assembly showed the Council’s dynamism in many areas.  It also showed that, while the Council’s role in the follow-up to United Nations conferences was being consolidated, more remained to be done in its coordination and oversight activities.  Additionally, solving today’s development problems required the involvement of all players, including civil society, the academic and private sectors, and the United Nations system, which only enhanced the Council’s role.

Crises, such as the economic downturn and climate change, had called into question development gains that had already been achieved, he continued, adding that the Council must work closely with developing counties to address such concerns.  While challenging, those crises had nonetheless encouraged the world to embark upon an important debate on global economic governance.  Strengthening the Council’s role in that arena should include a consolidation of its role with regards to other such United Nations bodies and institutions.  Morocco had always played a constructive role in the efforts of the Council, he said, noting that Morocco had created its own national Social Economic and Environmental Council, which helped to consolidate the country’s democratic process alongside development.  Finally, he called on the members of the Council to strengthen its role, thereby supporting the cause of development.

JOÁO ALMEIDA ( Brazil), recognizing recent initiatives to improve inter-institutional and intergovernmental coordination by the Council, said that the 54-member body still needed further strengthening in that area.  He noted the increasing importance of the Annual Ministerial Review in addressing key issues of the development agenda and of the Development Cooperation Forum, which could evolve into the main forum for such cooperation, if strengthened by holding annual meetings and producing a negotiated outcome document.  The multifaceted follow-up mechanism to the financing for development process, adopted by the Council in 2009, did not ensure proper consideration of the matter, he said.  A functional follow-up mechanism was needed.  The follow-up conference in 2013 should consider, as a matter of priority, the institutional framework with a view to redressing shortcomings.

He invited Member States to participate in the Rio+20 Conference next June, at the highest level.  That Conference and its preparatory processes would assess progress achieved and identify gaps in implementation regarding the Organization’s sustainable development agenda.  Two issues highlighted by the General Assembly were a green economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.  Rio+20 would also take up other proposals that might contribute to reinvigorating implementation, such as the adoption of sustainable development goals.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) said that the emergence of a better, more peaceful world free of violence would only take place if there was continued economic development and inclusive social support.  The Economic and Social Council, for its part, was a crucial link in the global system.  Senegal was actively involved in many of the Council’s activities, including in its recent Annual Ministerial Review.  He underscored the usefulness of that mechanism, and urged States to “breathe new life” into the Council’s Economic Development Forum, which met every two years.  Indeed, there were shortcomings in the Council’s work.  First and foremost, he said, that body should better integrate economic ideas into its activities — particularly its development strategies.  That important step would also have the effect of raising the Council’s profile, he noted.

In that regard, Senegal welcomed important reforms adopted at the General Assembly’s 2005 World Summit, as well as General Assembly resolution 61/16 (2007), through which it sought to pursue such reforms and strengthen the Council.  He said that the Council should focus on clarifying its mandates, and that it would benefit from “being placed at the heart of the global economic governance agenda”, as well as from increasing the frequency of its meetings.  The representative suggested a follow-up session on the 2010 Millennium Development Summit.  As there had been an increase in the number of institutions and bodies at the United Nations, overlaps in duties and coordination problems now existed; links between the Council and those bodies needed to be closely examined.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.