Opening the first meeting of its 2019 session today, the Economic and Social Council elected, by acclamation, Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) as its new President and adopted its provisional agenda and other organizational matters for its upcoming session.
The 54-member Council — which serves as the principal organ for the socioeconomic and related work of the United Nations — also elected three Vice‑Presidents: Omar Hilale (Morocco) from the African States, Teodoro Lopez Locsin, Jr. (Philippines) from the Asia-Pacific States and Tore Hattrem (Norway) from the Western European and other States.
Delivering her first remarks as President, Ms. King said that her main priorities in the coming year will be to deliver a successful High-Level Political Forum and to revive the Economic and Social Council. Noting that there has been some dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Council over recent years, she emphasized the need for a restoration of the Council’s deliberative function.
“Let us not criticize and skirt meetings we do not consider useful,” she said, urging Council members to instead focus on what does work well and why. A revitalized, forward‑looking High-Level Segment should stimulate discussion on how long-term and future trends, including new technologies, could impact the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Council should be proactive in looking for ways to harness opportunities and become more resilient to potential risks, and in that connection, she planned to convene periodic dialogues with thought leaders to catalyse discussions in preparation for the High-Level Segment. She underscored the importance of improving the Council’s contribution to the High-Level Political Forum, highlighting the need to ensure the full participation of young people, while also mobilizing civil society, including non-governmental organizations, academia, scientists and the private sector.
Outgoing Council President Maria Chatardová (Czechia) said the primary focus of her presidency had been the development of initiatives promoting sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through the involvement of all. Throughout her presidency, participation was stressed as an inherent tool for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said.
Underlining that the future development agenda recognizes that fostering inclusive societies based on strong and transparent institutions is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, she said that building sustainable and inclusive societies is a cross‑cutting endeavour, essential for the achievement of the Goals. “Breaking down long-entrenched silos is a daunting task,” she said, adding that shifting long-established behaviours is also a challenge. Nevertheless, continuing down the same road is not an option.
The representatives of Colombia and Haiti both took the floor, expressing thanks to the outgoing President and congratulating the incoming President on her election.
Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, also delivered a statement, underlining that 2019 will be an important year, particularly as the High-Level Political Forum met under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.
Among other challenges, he pointed to the fact that inequalities remain unacceptability high across all dimensions of life. The international community must remain focused on the 2030 Agenda if the world is to shift towards a more sustainable and resilient pathway.
In other matters, the Council also adopted its provisional agenda (document E/2019/1).