Economic and Social Council Opens 2014 Session by Outlining Structural Reforms Deemed ‘Most Significant’ in Over 20 Years

14 January 2014

Economic and Social Council Opens 2014 Session by Outlining Structural Reforms Deemed ‘Most Significant’ in Over 20 Years

14 January 2014
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2013 Substantive Session

55th Meeting* (AM)

Economic and Social Council Opens 2014 Session by Outlining Structural


Reforms Deemed ‘Most Significant’ in Over 20 Years


Decision Deferred on Theme for Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Pledging support for the new organizational and institutional structure of the Economic and Social Council, the United Nations top economic and social affairs official today said it would bolster that body’s capacity to fortify the ambitious global post-2015 development agenda.

“These reforms constitute the most significant changes to the Economic and Social Council for over 20 years and serve to deepen the Council’s role in all aspects of development,” Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told the Council, as it opened its 2014 session.

Under General Assembly resolution 68/1, adopted in September 2013, the Economic and Social Council would continue to have one substantive and one organizational session each year, but it would shift its work programme from a January-December to a July-July cycle.  Instead of holding its entire substantive session in July, the Council would continue holding the high-level segment then, but move the humanitarian affairs segment to June and the operational activities for the development segment following the first regular sessions of the executive boards of United Nations funds and programmes, typically held in January and February.

A new integration segment, whose timing was not yet set, would pool key strategies and policy recommendations from United Nations system actors on integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development:  economic development, social development and environmental protection.

In addition, starting this year a new High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development would be introduced during the Council’s high-level segment, and in 2016, it would replace the Annual Ministerial Review, traditionally held during the high-level segment.

“With the High-level Political Forum as an essential part of the new institutional framework, we must build on the momentum to put the three dimensions of sustainable development at the core of what we do,” Mr. Wu said.

Growth strategies that did not include environmental protection and social inclusion would fail; they also could harm the ecosphere and the fundamental rights of citizens that depended upon it, he said.  Rather, the focus must be on ensuring that the institutional changes strengthened the economic system and set the world on course for a prosperous future.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs was fully committed to supporting the Council “in this crucial phase of reform”, he said, stressing that 2014 offered a “historic opportunity” to create more jobs, clean energy, security and a dignified standard of living for all.  Such goals were most urgent for least developed countries, small island developing States and countries emerging from conflict.

Martin Sajdik ( Austria), newly elected Economic and Social Council President, pledged to continue to strengthen the body’s role as a platform for unified dialogue on sustainable and inclusive development.  “We must maintain the momentum from Rio+20 and its follow-up, and translate this into a meaningful post-2015 development agenda, with sustainable development goals that respect the 1992 Rio principles,” he said.

The High-level Political Forum, he said, would serve to engage decision makers from key policy areas and to monitor progress in implementing that agenda, he said.  He proposed that the Council focus this year on strengthening ties with partners from civil society, academia and the private sector and ensuring that donor and recipient nations alike were held to account for the use of official development assistance (ODA), among other things.

Also during the meeting, the Economic and Social Council elected by consensus the Vice-Presidents of its 2014 session — Ibrahim Dabbashi (Libya), from the African States Group; Oh Joon (Republic of Korea), from the Asia-Pacific States Group; and Carlos Enrique García González (El Salvador), from the Latin American and Caribbean States Group.  Action on the Council’s agenda and programme of work was postponed to a later date.

Prior to the meeting, the Economic and Social Council wrapped up its 2013 session and unanimously elected Mr. Sajdik as President of its 2014 session.  Prior to handing over the reins to his successor, Néstor Osorio ( Colombia), outgoing President, recapped the main outcomes of the Council’s work over the past year.  The Annual Ministerial Review had highlighted the important role of science, technology, innovation and culture in overcoming extreme poverty, inequality and environmental degradation.  Their critical role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and promoting sustainable development’s three pillars had been underscored in the Ministerial Declaration, adopted during the Review.

During the Economic and Social Council’s thematic debate in 2013, participants had agreed that the post-2015 development agenda should build on the Millennium targets, set specific goals and ensure their results were irreversible, he said.  The operational activities segment had highlighted progress implementing the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, while the humanitarian affairs segment had examined ways to adapt and better respond to humanitarian demands.  The general segment had focused on implementing the 10-year Framework Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production.  Also considered was the interface between peace and security through lessons learned on several African countries emerging from conflict, as well as the concerns and expectations of youth.

Reverting to current tasks, Mr. Osorio noted that no further action was required under the coordination segment of Council’s 2013 substantive session, as no agreement had been reached during informal consultations on an outcome.

He said that during the Annual Ministerial Review of the Council’s 2014 high-level segment, several countries would give national voluntary presentations that tracked their respective progress in the United Nations development agenda, including Bolivia, Gambia, Georgia, Kuwait, Mexico, Qatar, Sudan, Thailand, United Kingdom and the State of Palestine.  Such presentations were a valuable way for countries to share lessons learned and address development gaps and obstacles, and to assess frankly what had worked and what could be refined in the post-2015 era.

Action on a draft decision regarding the theme and dates for the 2014 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development was postponed, after Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, asked for more time to discuss both the theme and outcome.

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*     The 54th Meeting was not covered.

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