Renewing commitment for ECOSOC strengthening

ECOSOC_presidentThe 2013 ECOSOC Presidential Expert Meeting took place on 15-16 November at the Greentree Foundation in Manhasset, New York. The theme of the event was “The ECOSOC We Want: Renewing commitment, confronting new challenges”The Meeting was convened by H.E. Néstor Osorio, President of ECOSOC, and organized by UN DESA’s Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination.

The event brought together over 60 participants, including former ECOSOC Presidents, the current ECOSOC Bureau, Permanent Representatives, other representatives from Member States and experts, to discuss the way forward for ECOSOC after the adoption by the General Assembly of resolutions 67/290 on the High-level Political Forum and 68/1 on strengthening ECOSOC.

The opening session was devoted to defining the pressing development challenges to sustainable development in the social, economic and environment areas that would need to address, such as geo-political and geo-economic shifts, climate change, youth, women, the communications revolution, urbanization and migration, science and technology and inequality.

A number of key messages emerged from the four separate working groups:

Furthering engagements with national stakeholders

Discussions underlined that ECOSOC has to play a leading role in choosing relevant and attractive topics to a broad range of stakeholders, and that could attract participation from country capitals. The Council’s working methods and proceedings should therefore also be opened to include national stakeholders and move away from the current model that limits the participation of private sector, the scientific community, parliamentarians and civil society organizations.

Enhancing the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development

Emphasis was placed on the critical role the newly created integration segment of the Council is to play in bringing better understanding on how daunting challenges can be addressed from all the three dimensions of sustainable development and making concrete recommendations for action. In this connection, the role of all stakeholders, including ECOSOC’s subsidiary bodies should be augmented. The two transition years of 2014-2015 represent an opportunity to gather experience that will be relevant for the post-2015 architecture and implementation.

Strengthening the links between normative and operational activities

There was a broad agreement that the operational activities role of ECOSOC should go beyond its conventional role by enhancing dialogue on issues of system-wide concerns such as the responsiveness of the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs), national ownership, effective utilization of funds and the functioning of the Resident Coordinator system. Participants stressed that ECOSOC could also provide space for dialogue on overall guidance of operational activities and thus give voice to Member States that may have difficulties effectively influencing discussions at the governing body level, and/or in regional groups.

Enhancing the Council’s monitoring capacity to promote greater accountability

Monitoring and accountability mechanisms for the post-2015 development agenda should be built into the design of the new development framework. They should engage a wide range of stakeholders, especially parliaments, in order to better link global to national accountability. Broad-based participation will also be critical in defining the scope of such accountability – for what and to whom – both at the global and national levels. National reviews should continue to be carried out in the medium and long term to allow sufficient time to measure and monitor implementation.

The way forward

The new institutional architecture for this vision built on the Council, the General Assembly and the high-level political forum, all acting in unison, offers a historical opportunity. It is imperative to bring to them the relevant policymakers and experts so that their outcomes can become more effective. Working through the transition in 2014-2015, as the transformative development agenda beyond 2015 is finalized, requires moving beyond the process – to action and implementation. Systems can be modified as necessary to ensure that they remain fit and effective.

For more information on the work of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), browse the Council’s website.