In Organizational Meeting, Economic and Social Council Adopts 2013 Work Programme, Approves Arrangements for Substantive Session, Scheduled for Geneva 1-26 July

15 February 2013

In Organizational Meeting, Economic and Social Council Adopts 2013 Work Programme, Approves Arrangements for Substantive Session, Scheduled for Geneva 1-26 July

15 February 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2013 Organizational Session

4th Meeting (PM)

In Organizational Meeting, Economic and Social Council Adopts 2013 Work Programme,

Approves Arrangements for Substantive Session, Scheduled for Geneva 1-26 July


The Economic and Social Council concluded the first part of its 2013 organizational session today, adopting seven draft decisions that detailed much of its agenda for the year, and outlined the arrangements for the body’s substantive session, set to open on 1 July, at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Acting on the proposals forwarded by its President, Néstor Osorio ( Colombia), in document E/2013/L.1, the Council first agreed that its annual spring meeting with the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) would be held on 22 April, at Headquarters in New York.

Ahead of that decision, the representative of Ecuador expressed his delegation’s concern that the spring meeting had been curtailed to one day, rather than two days, as was the Council’s tradition.  He hoped that this was a matter that could be revisited, especially in the ambit of the discussions on strengthening the Council’s work.

Next, the Council decided that its special meeting on “External Debt Sustainability and Development” would be held on 23 April, and that its meeting on international cooperation in tax matters would be held on 29 May.  Both meetings are set to take place at Headquarters.

The Council moved on to its proposed basic programme of work for 2013 and 2014 (document E/2013/1) and took note of the proposed provisional agenda of its substantive 2013 session, set to run from 1 to 26 July.  It also took note of the list of questions for inclusion in the programme of work for its 2014 session.

Working arrangements for the 2013 session were approved in a related draft decision which set out the dates of the various segments the Council considers annually.  Specifically:  the high-level segment of the 2013 session would be held from Monday, 1 July, through Thursday, 4 July; the coordination segment would be held from Friday, 5 July, through Tuesday, 9 July; and the operational activities segment would be held from Wednesday, 10 July, through Friday, 12 July.

It was further decided that:  the informal joint event of the operational activities and humanitarian affairs segments on the issue of “the transition from relief to development” would be held on the morning of Monday, 15 July; the humanitarian affairs segment would be held from the afternoon of Monday, 15 July, through Wednesday, 17 July; and the general segment would be held from Thursday, 18 July, through Thursday, 25 July.

Moving on to the thematic focus of the 2013 segments, the Council decided that the operational segment would be devoted to progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of United Nations operational activities for development.

As for the remaining segments, the Council was informed that consultations were still ongoing regarding their themes and that delegations should prepare for upcoming rounds of “informal informals” on the topics that would be discussed, respectively at the 2013 humanitarian segment, the joint event on the transition from relief to development, and for the Council’s item on regional cooperation.

In other business, the Council appointed by acclamation the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations as an additional member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti.

Just before the Council concluded its work, several delegations raised objections about President Osorio’s recommendation earlier in the week that Council Vice-President, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman ( Sudan), would Chair the humanitarian affairs segment (see Press Release ECOSOC/6560).

Delegates called into question the Sudanese Government’s commitment to human rights, citing its “long track record” of impeding delivery of humanitarian aid to needy populations in Darfur, as well as in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.  Ambassador Osman rejected as “wholly unfounded” any and all allegations levelled against his country and underscored that it was the rebels that continued to obstruct aid delivery in the areas concerned.  He also underscored that he was not serving on the Council in his national capacity and that his vice-presidency had been forwarded to the Bureau by the 53-member African Group.

President Osorio announced that, since there appeared to be disagreement of the matter, he would postpone a final decision and begin consultations on the distribution of responsibilities as soon as possible to come to an agreed solution.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

Procedural Debate on Division of Responsibilities

The representative of Canada said that it was his delegation’s understanding that the President had recommended Sudan’s Chairmanship of that segment, and that a final decision would be made by the wider Council.  If the President’s decision had been made, Canada would raise its objection and point out that the actions of the Sudanese Government had led to a “devastating” humanitarian situation in Darfur, as well as in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.  That Government was intimidating national civil society organizations attempting to provide lifesaving assistance to desperately needy populations in those areas.  Against such a backdrop, Canada strongly objected to Sudan serving as Chair of the Council’s humanitarian segment.

The representative of the United States said that, while her delegation appreciated the President’s efforts to assign a division of responsibilities that would allow the Council to efficiently undertake its important work, the United States was “deeply concerned” by the decision to recommend Sudan as Chair of the humanitarian segment.  Khartoum’s “long track record” of blocking humanitarian assistance to is own people and its ongoing attempts to impede the elaboration of a viable access framework for aid delivery to Blue Nile and South Kordofan states were deeply troubling.  In addition, Sudan was subject to sanctions, and various United Nations bodies had recorded rights violations throughout the country or had noted its “poor performance” on key human rights and social development fronts.  The United States would appeal to the Council President to reserve judgement on the issue, pending further consultations among the Council membership.

Taking the floor next, the representative of Sudan said that he had been nominated to serve as Vice-president on the Council by the 53-member African Group.  The Sudanese delegation had pledged to abide by the policies and decisions of the Bureau.  While he was not serving on the Council in his national capacity, he would nevertheless reject the “wholly unfounded” allegations levelled at his country by the representatives of Canada and the United States.  He would declare “loudly and clearly” that his Government was ready to engage on the smooth channelling of humanitarian aid to the two States concerned.

It was the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North that was impeding delivery, he said.  Further, Sudan had received information from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that that was the case.   Sudan was ready to coordinate and cooperate with all United Nations agencies, but those that had encouraged and supported the violent rebel movements — and the rebels themselves — had impeded relief aid and prompted the deterioration of the humanitarian situation.  He recalled that it had been more than 20 years since a recommendation of an Economic and Social Council President had been challenged on the floor, and what had taken place today ran counter to the body’s tradition.  He hoped it was not an attempt to “turn this body into the Security Council”.

A representative of the delegation of the European Union expressed “strong concerns” about some of the points that had been raised by Canada and the United States, and would also appeal to the President to postpone the decision on delegation of responsibilities.

Ethiopia’s representative said that, when and if the Council President considered the matter, he must take into account his Charter-mandated responsibilities, including the need to maintain transparency.  He also said that “at the end of the day”, Sudan’s cooperation would be needed on the issues on the Council agenda, as well as the concerns raised by Canada, the United States, and the European Union.  He also reiterated that Sudan had been nominated as Council vice-president by the African Group and that he would not be chairing the humanitarian segment in his national capacity.

The representative of Cuba said that his “delegation was deeply concerned” about the manipulation of the rules of procedure.  There was “major hypocrisy” in the allegations made by certain delegations.  Further, earlier in today’s meeting, when another delegation raised concerns about a particular matter, the Council had taken a decision anyway, with no calls for “further consultations”.  He said it was also important for all delegations to remember that Sudan’s vice-chairmanship had been forwarded to the President by that country’s regional group.

The representative of Egypt also urged the Bureau to consider that the regional groups nominated vice-presidential candidates, and that those officers were not serving on the Bureau in their national capacities.  The representative of Nigeria agreed with the points raised Ethiopia, Cuba and Egypt.

The representative of the Russian Federation asked for clarification about what steps would now be taken by the President to resolve the matter.

China’s representative said that his delegation had always respected the decisions taken by all United Nations regional groups and, therefore, welcomed the decision of the African States to nominate Sudan to serve as a Council Vice-President.   China also respected the President’s decision to assign the responsibility for the humanitarian segment to Sudan.

The representative of Australia said that her delegation would not seek to challenge a decision by the African Group or any other regional grouping to choose its representation on the Council.  Nevertheless, it was clear that there was some disagreement over the distribution of responsibilities for the segments which the Council would hold in 2013, and as such, it appeared that further consideration of the matter was necessary.

France’s representative said that no one had called into question the choice of Sudan as an African representative in the Council.  Nor had anyone called into question the decision made by the African Group to forward Sudan’s name to the Bureau.  Yet, he understood that such forwarding was a recommendation to be approved by the wider Council, and he looked forward to the upcoming round of consultations on the matter.

The representative of Venezuela expressed shock that an “eleventh hour” manoeuvre had been made by certain delegations.  “We can not turn a [Council] meeting into something of this sort; we cannot allow anyone to take rights upon themselves in this way,” he said, calling on delegations to respect the decisions of both the African Group and Council President Osorio.

Finally, President Osorio said that as there appeared to be no broad agreement on the distribution of responsibilities, he would postpone action on the matter and commence consultations to arrive at a decision.  He would be holding consultations with the Bureau to reach a decision as soon as possible.  He would not propose a date today because the discussions had not yet begun.

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