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ECOSOC/6720
24 July 2015
2016 Session, 1st Meeting (AM)

Opening 2016 Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Agenda Prioritizing Theme of ‘Moving from Commitments to Results’

Opening the first meeting of its 2016 session today, the Economic and Social Council elected, by acclamation, Oh Joon (Republic of Korea) as its new President and adopted the provisional agenda and working arrangements for its upcoming session.

The 54-member body — which serves as the principal organ for the socioeconomic and related work of the United Nations — also elected four Vice-Presidents.

They were:  Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe) from the African States; Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia) from the Eastern European States; María Cristina Perceval (Argentina) from the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Paul Seger (Switzerland) from the Western European and other States.

Delivering remarks on past achievements and future goals for the Council, Mr. Oh said that in the last 18 months, the Economic and Social Council had made itself to “be better in meeting the opportunities and challenges ahead”.  Member States expected the Council to lead in the global implementation and review of the post-2015 development agenda, he said, adding that “we must rise to the expectation and provide this leadership”.

In order to do that, the Council should pay attention to events happening in the world; relevance was the “key word”.  The body must stand ready to tackle emerging and pressing issues, such as inequality.  In countries striving to eradicate poverty and inequalities of income, there was a close link between opportunity and access to services.  Yet inequality existed in all countries — developing and developed.  In that vein, he said, holding a special meeting on inequality was a priority for the first quarter of 2016.

The convening of the High-level Political Forum under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council was a prominent example of the Council’s transformation, as the Forum was crucial for promoting, following up and reviewing the implementation of the new sustainable development goals.  The Council also needed to continue to strengthen and harmonize the work of its system as a whole.  Aligning the themes and programmes of the Council’s system — including its 2016 theme, “Implementing the post-2015 development agenda: moving from commitments to results” — was a top priority.

Finally, the Council would lead efforts to build an inclusive and engaging global partnership that welcomed the significant contribution that all stakeholders could provide, in particular through the Development Cooperation Forum.  “Our past work has ensured that the seeds we sow in September fall on fertile ground,” said outgoing President Martin Sajdik of the upcoming Summit on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  “ECOSOC as a multi-stakeholder platform has been instrumental in providing guidance during this time of immense change.”

During his tenure as President, the Council had achieved several important milestones, he said.  In line with its reform mandates, it had implemented its first full cycle of meetings and convened the first session of the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development under the auspices of the Council.  The second meeting of the Forum, held earlier this month, had cemented the new body as an inclusive platform for dialogue and political guidance on the road to sustainable development, setting a clear vision for the Forum beyond 2015.

Various platforms of the Council had shown their fitness for the responsibilities of the future, he went on.  Through its partnership Forum, the Council had placed increased emphasis on ways in which to mobilize partnerships in support of the post-2015 development agenda.  Building on the outcome of the Council’s special meeting on Ebola, the 2015 Partnerships Forum had addressed how partnerships could help strengthen health systems and build resilience to pandemics.

Just last week, the international community had taken a new pathway in committing to a ground-breaking financing for development framework.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda opened new horizons for the work of the Council, including through an annual Council forum on follow-up with universal intergovernmental participation.

Other initiatives that had been strengthened during his term as President included the Council’s Youth Forum, which had reached new records in attendance.  Human rights, rule of law, youth unemployment, eradication of poverty and a cleaner environment had been among the central elements and driving forces during his tenure.

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination, speaking on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, said the coming year was a crucial time as the Council moved its focus from agenda-setting to action.  The High-level Political Forum and the Council system could work at the global level to build broad-based ownership in the agenda’s implementation and institutionalize review processes that were inclusive, transparent and constructive.

Development cooperation was one of the key areas in which the Council could add value, particularly through its multi-stakeholder Development Cooperation Forum.  The Forum’s high-level symposium in Uganda in November would be an important opportunity to focus on implementing the new agenda.  In that regard, the Council’s work could sharpen the focus on non-financial means of fulfilment, such as technology transfer and capacity-building.

The September Summit would mark the start of the second phase of the Economic and Social Council Dialogue and examine in more detail the specific options available to Member States to strengthen the development system’s ability to respond to the complex demands of the post-2015 development agenda. 

To that end, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) would support the Council in meeting those demands, including policy integration and coherence at all levels, strengthening DESA’s capacities to provide guidance through its analytical work, promoting the substantive engagement of civil society, including youth, as important stakeholders and shaping the essential partnerships for carrying out the new development agenda.  Through its collective expertise, the international community could create the action-led solutions that would “turn the post-2015 agenda into reality”, he said.

Taking the floor, the representative of the European Union said the Council would only be as relevant and efficient “as we want it to be”.  Many of the instruments put in place in recent years had worked and the Council needed to build upon that success.  The Council was an important institutional home for dialogue and debate in the economic, social and environmental fields.  It had a mandate to improve coherence and coordination in the three areas of sustainable development.

Further, he said, the Council should ensure a coherence policy vision on the follow-up to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and should avoid overlap with other bodies.  The High-level political Forum on Sustainable Development held under the auspices of the Council should become the apex for the follow-up, monitoring and review of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  The European Union believed in the setting of critical milestones for allowing the High-level Political Forum to deliver on that role.  In addition, she stressed that the implementation of sustainable development was a multi-stakeholder exercise that the Council should better reflect in in its working methods.

In other business today, the Council adopted the provisional agenda for its 2016 session and a draft resolution which established its working arrangements for that session (document E/2016/L.1).

Prior to the adoption of that draft, Mr. Oh said that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development called for the establishment of a technology facilitation mechanism, as well as a multi-stakeholder forum to be convened by the President of the Council once a year for a period of two days before the meetings of the High-level Political Forum or alternately in conjunction with other forums or conferences, to discuss science, technology and innovation cooperation around thematic areas for the implementation of the sustainable development goals.

The Council, therefore, adopted the draft resolution with the understanding that it would be adjusted as required in the future, in particular following the adoption by the General Assembly of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and in light of the points he had just raised.

For information media. Not an official record.