New York, 14 January 2008 - Secretary-General's remarks to the organizational session of the Economic and Social Council [as prepared for delivery]Mr. President [H.E. Mr. Léo Mérorès, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the UN], Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
It is a pleasure to join you today.
2007 was a landmark year for the Economic and Social Council. It witnessed the operationalization of ECOSOC's important new functions, as mandated by 2005 World Summit.
My sincere appreciation to the outgoing President, H.E. Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis, and his Bureau. You have led the Council in its pursuit of greater accountability, stronger coherence and broader engagement through the first Annual Ministerial Review and the launch of the Development Cooperation Forum.
I am confident that the new President, H.E. Ambassador Léo Mérorès, and the other members of the Bureau will ably steer the Council in advancing implementation of the United Nations development agenda. I would like to assure you of my full support and that of the entire Secretariat.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Development for all remains a central challenge for the United Nations, and for the international community as a whole. The challenge is all encompassing. It covers everything from the eradication of poverty to the reduction in child mortality, and from preventing malaria to ensuring that more children attend school. Development is also about correcting gender inequalities, increasing employment opportunities for young people, and addressing the challenges of migration, water scarcity and climate change.
We have seen some visible and widespread development gains since world leaders endorsed the Millennium Declaration in 2000, even in those regions where the challenges are greatest. Between 1990 and 2004, for example, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from nearly one third to less than one fifth.
Yet, for every success, we can point to lack of progress elsewhere. Disparities within countries are increasingly worrisome. And given the likelihood of a downturn in the global economy in 2008, least developed countries may face even tougher development challenges ahead.
In confronting these challenges, we need to focus on achieving results. In spite of the difficulties, the UN development agenda, especially the Millennium Development Goals, can be achieved if immediate steps are taken to implement existing commitments.
And Africa must be our priority. Despite recent improvement in growth and economic stability across the continent, absolute poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has risen over the last decade. While there are pockets of progress, not a single country in the sub-region is on track to achieve the MDGs by the target date of 2015. To address this alarming situation, the MDG Africa Steering Group has been working hard since last September to mobilize the full resources of the UN system and its partners.
Together with the President of the General Assembly, I will convene a high-level meeting on the MDGs in September to find ways to bridge the implementation gap. We must pay close attention to systemic issues of trade, investment and finance, in the run-up to the UNCTAD-XII Conference in Accra in April, and the Financing for Development Conference in Doha in November.
The poorest countries are also among those most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. We must make progress on the negotiations launched in Bali. The international community will be looking to the UN to act on the mutually reinforcing relationship between our climate goals and development objectives. I look forward to the Council's contribution to this effort through its deliberations during this year's Annual Ministerial Review on "Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development”.
Responding to the many global inter-linked challenges we face requires collective action and international cooperation. In 2005, world leaders called on ECOSOC to promote greater coherence among the activities of various development partners. They also called on the Council to strengthen the links between the normative and operational work of the United Nations and ensure adequate follow-up to major UN conferences. World leaders further stressed the need for the Council to address humanitarian emergencies and to help coordinate the UN funds, programmes and agencies. The Council indeed is in a unique position to forge closer ties with all actors, including civil society and the private sector, and to maximize the potential of the UN system to serve the needs of humanity.
I believe that the first Development Cooperation Forum, to be convened in July, will be critical to the performance of these functions. I am confident that the Forum will pave the way for an inclusive framework to address the latest trends in development cooperation and the critical issues of aid quality and quantity.
We all know that development is as important as the UN's work for peace and human rights, and that these three areas of the Organization's activities are mutually reinforcing. That is why I intend to work over the coming year to strengthen the United Nations' role in development. I have listened to the concerns of Member States in this regard and will submit a proposal to the General Assembly in March for strengthening the UN's development machinery.
The General Assembly will also soon begin work on system-wide coherence, including on the question of gender architecture. We must deliver as one at country, regional and global levels in virtually every area of our work.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2015, we must be able to say that we have done everything possible to follow through on our commitments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. ECOSOC has a critical role to play in ensuring that we win the race to the Goals and that we advance our global development agenda. So let us redouble our efforts as we work together to create a better, more peaceful and more prosperous world for all.
In that spirit, I wish you a most productive meeting.
Thank you very much.
Statements on 14 January 2008