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GA/11960
9 October 2017
Seventy-second Session, 29th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Stress Economic and Social Council’s Critical Role in Measuring Sustainable Development Progress, as General Assembly Considers Its Annual Report

Resolution Adopted to Maintain Voting Rights for Four Member States in Arrears

The United Nations must ensure that the impact of its Economic and Social Council — a critical platform for measuring sustainable development progress and amplifying stakeholders’ voices — was “greater than the sum of its parts”, the General Assembly heard today as it considered the Council’s diverse activities in 2017.

Prior to taking note of the 54‑member Council’s annual report (document A/72/3), the Assembly heard a presentation by its Vice-President, Cristián Barros Melet (Chile), who outlined key activities in an array of areas.  Those ranged from accelerating financing for development commitments to promoting multi‑stakeholder participation and supporting efforts to harness science, technology and innovation to tackle emerging challenges around the world.

“We are off to a very good start but further work, coordination and innovation are needed,” he said.  Noting that throughout 2017 the Council had built on the initial phase of implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related commitments, he said it had also worked to integrate lessons learned during years one and two of the Agenda’s implementation period.

Underscoring the Council’s commitment to strengthening its support to Member States and development partners, he recalled that its High‑Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development — held in July under the theme, “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world” — had reviewed a subset of the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals in‑depth, with 43 countries presenting Voluntary National Reviews.  Meanwhile, the Council’s second Forum on Financing for Development follow-up had served as an inclusive platform to discuss a range of issues, with its outcome both reaffirming key elements of the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and delivering various new commitments.

Noting that stakeholder engagement with the Council’s work and the United Nations development system continued at a brisk pace, he said a record 460 non‑governmental organizations had obtained consultative status in 2017, its Youth Forum continued to grow in both participation and impact, and its Partnership Forum and Multi‑Stakeholder Forum for Science, Technology and Innovation continued to address critical emerging issues.  Work also progressed on the nexus between peace and sustainable development, as the Council held a joint meeting with the Peacebuilding Commission on the situation in the Sahel region, with an emphasis on the need to address the root causes of poverty.

Several speakers took the floor following that presentation, with some noting that, while United Nations development system entities were individually taking steps to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into their work, more work was needed to strengthen the United Nations system-wide approach in that regard.  The Council itself must become more “more purposeful, action-oriented and policy relevant”, some stressed, while others emphasized its critical role in ensuring that industrialized nations fulfilled their commitments to working “hand in hand” with developing countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Also before the Assembly for its discussion on that item was a note by the Secretary-General titled, “United Nations Population Award, 2017” (document A/72/255), by which he transmitted the report of the Secretary of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award, submitted in accordance with Economic and Social Council decision 1982/112.

In other business, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution titled, “Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations”, contained in a report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) (document A/72/519).  By its terms, it urged all Member States requesting exemption under Article 19 of the Charter to submit as much information as possible in support of their requests and to consider submitting such information in advance of the deadline.  Agreeing that the failure of the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia to pay the full minimum amount necessary to avoid the application of Article 19 of the Charter was due to “conditions out of their control”, it decided that those countries must be permitted to vote in the General Assembly until the end of its seventy‑second session.

The representatives of India, Kuwait and Ethiopia also spoke.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October, to continue its work.

Introduction of Report

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, introduced the Council’s report on its 2017 session (document A/72/3).  Throughout the session, he said, the Council had built on the initial phase of implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related commitments, as well as integrated lessons learned from years one and two.  “We are off to a very good start but further work, coordination and innovation are needed,” he said, urging States to ensure that the impact of the Economic and Social Council system was, in its entirety, greater than the sum of its parts, including its segments, forums, function and regional commissions and expert bodies. 

Underscoring the Council’s commitment to strengthening its support to Member States and development partners, he highlighted some of its key work over the last year, including efforts to build on success in the follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.  The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development — held under the theme, “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world” — reviewed a subset of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals in-depth, with 43 countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews during the Forum’s ministerial segment.  The Council’s second Forum on Financing for Development follow-up demonstrated its importance as an inclusive platform for discussion on a range of issues, with its outcome reaffirming the key elements of the Addis Agenda and making new commitments to help accelerate national and international efforts. 

The Council’s 2017 session advanced a shared understanding of the fundamental adjustments needed for the United Nations development system to deliver improved results in a changing development landscape, he said.  Noting that the two‑year‑long dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the United Nations development system had laid the foundation for a landmark resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, adopted by the Assembly in December 2016, he recalled that the resolution had requested the Secretary-General to lead a change process by presenting proposals and rallying the United Nations development system around them.  Pursuant to that text, the Secretary-General had presented the outlines of his reform proposals to the Council in July, seeking the view of Member States in his work going forward.  Member States had also used the Council’s 2017 Operational Activities Segment to elaborate on how the resolution could be operationalized.

Stakeholder engagement with the Council’s work and the United Nations development system continued at a brisk pace, he continued, describing the former’s role as a platform for multi‑stakeholder participation as unrivalled.  In 2017, 460 non‑governmental organizations had obtained consultative status with the Council, setting a new record, while its Youth Forum continued to grow in participation and impact.  The Council continued to engage with key partners through its Partnership Forum and multi‑stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, while it also worked to enhance its lead role in identifying emerging issues and promoting reflection, debate and innovative, integrative thinking.  For example, a joint meeting with the Peacebuilding Commission on the situation in the Sahel region had underscored the need to address the root causes of poverty while avoiding a disproportionate emphasis on security.

Statements

ASHISH KUMAR SINHA (India) underscored the importance of sharing technologies and success pathways with developing countries and pledged to continue to work with development partnership to build capacity, especially for countries in vulnerable situations.  The Council’s second Forum on Financing for Development follow-up had provided a platform for substantive deliberations with the representatives of intergovernmental bodies, Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  While United Nations development system entities were individually taking steps to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into their work, a system-wide approach must be strengthened.  For its part, the Council must continue to be “more purposeful, action-oriented and policy relevant”.  It had to keep the interests of developing countries at the centre of its work.  On a planning note, he called for balance in the time allocated for panel discussions against the time available for deliberations among Member States.

ABDULLAH A KH A KH ALSHARRAH (Kuwait) said his country had deployed great efforts to carry out the third follow-up Conference held in July 2015, including by adopting an outcome document that considered the Conference’s recommendations on national specificities.  Among other things, Kuwait focused on finding solutions to climate change and working with other States to ensure no one was left behind in the fight against poverty.  He commended the work of various United Nations organizations and departments, particularly the Council for being a truly effective and equitable platform for Member States to share experiences.  Emphasizing that vulnerable States must be given a chance to achieve prosperity, he called on all countries to work together to find new and innovative sources of funding that would assist developing countries.  Industrialized nations meanwhile had a responsibility to live up to their pledged commitments.  For its part, Kuwait had made substantial contributions to its regional partners.  “We have always been at the forefront of development,” he said, highlighting that the New Kuwait Vision had aimed at turning Kuwait into a regional leader in social and economic spheres.  He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s plans to reinvigorate the United Nations work.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that without overcoming current complex and interconnected challenges, the 2030 Agenda would not be met by the target date.  The international community must be able to translate ambitious and universal plans into concrete action.  If it failed to do so, it would have missed a major opportunity.  Failing to achieve the 2030 Agenda would have serious consequences for millions of people and undermine faith in the United Nations and its capacity to deliver on collective promises.  Ending poverty, combating climate change, and mobilizing sufficient resources required the same optimism and political determination demonstrated in endorsing intergovernmental agreed frameworks, she continued.  In that context, genuine and revitalized global partnership and multi‑stakeholder collaboration was critical for implementing the 2030 Agenda.  It was also imperative to strengthen coordination and coherence in following up decisions by the United Nations conferences and forums.  Implementing the Addis Agenda was crucial, as was developed countries honouring their commitments to give sufficient aid and technologies to developing countries. She also underscored the United Nations role in fully implementing global development frameworks.

For information media. Not an official record.