20 January 2005
New President of Economic and Social Council Calls Failure to Realize Vision of United Nations Charter Greatest Challenge to Humanity
NEW YORK, 19 January (UN Headquarters) -- There was no greater challenge to humanity, nor greater threat to world peace, than the failure to realize the United Nations Charters vision of promoting better standards of life and larger freedoms, Munir Akram (Pakistan), the newly elected President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for 2005, said in a brief organizational Council meeting today.
Addressing the 54-member body following his election by acclamation, he said that, while the present was the best of times for some -- with growth, trade, investment and consumption increasing, and prosperity present or promised, for the majority of humanity, it was the worst of times. More than a billion people lived on less than a dollar a day and 11 million children died each year from preventable diseases.
He asserted that ECOSOC had not fulfilled its role as the central organ of the United Nations system in the socio-economic sphere. If the international community was to promote development as the highest priority, the Council must be empowered and enabled to play its central role in promoting coherence and coordination, as well as the implementation of agreements and commitments by States, institutions, the private sector and civil society.
Outgoing Council President Marjatta Rasi (Finland) highlighted various aspects of ECOSOCs work in 2004, including the finalization of smooth transition strategies for the least developed countries, saying that the Council was a resilient body that was open to change. It had held a panel on its own reform last May and, hopefully, it would discuss the very relevant suggestions made by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. The ECOSOC was an important policy-making body and every effort should be made to ensure its effectiveness.
Agreeing that advances had been made on many fronts in 2004, Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that only a qualitative strengthening of international cooperation for development and significant progress in the quality and depth of ECOSOCs contribution could reinforce global cooperation and strengthen the United Nations. Important innovations in the Councils working methods over the years had placed it in the forefront of reform, and reinforcing its role was key to the Organizations overall strengthening.
In other business today, the Council elected four Vice-Presidents to serve in 2005: Ali Hachani (Tunisia), representing the Group of African States; Agim Nesho (Albania), the Eastern European Group; Luis Gallegos Chiriboga (Ecuador), the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States; and Johan C. Verbeke (Belgium), Western European and Other States Group. It also adopted the provisional agenda for its organizational session, which would resume from 1 to 4 February, and again from 27 and 28 April, leading to the 2005 substantive session, to be held in New York this summer.
Since some items in the provisional agenda for the 2005 organizational session had been deferred from the resumed 2004 substantive session, the President requested delegations to continue their consultations on those items (document E/2005/2), so that it might conclude them and concentrate on issues before the Council for the upcoming substantive session.
The President also informed the Council that, due to the demise of a member of the Committee for Development Policy, the election of a new member would likely be added to the agenda for the organizational meeting in February.
The Council will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
Summary of Statements
MARJATTA RASI (Finland), outgoing ECOSOC President, highlighted the Councils work under her leadership, noting, among other things, that the organ continued to strengthen its oversight role. Its interaction and dialogue with the functional commissions were encouraging and they were expected to continue examining ways to improve their working methods. The Council had also approved a smooth strategy for nations graduating from the list of least developed countries. Regarding the outcomes of the Councils high-level, coordination, humanitarian affairs and general segments, she also praised ECOSOCs overall efforts to press ahead with efforts to monitor the implementation of the outcomes of the last decades major United Nations conferences and meetings.
She said that throughout 2004, the Council had remained a resilient body that was open to change. To that end, a panel on ECOSOC reform had been held last May and now that the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats and Change had been released, it was to be hoped that its very relevant and important suggestions would be discussed by the Council. Every effort should be made to ensure that ECOSOC worked effectively and efficiently as one of the main organs of the United Nations. The Council, an excellent meeting forum, was also an important policy-making body.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), incoming ECOSOC President, said there was no greater challenge to humanity -- nor greater threat to world peace -- than the failure to realize the United Nations Charters vision of promoting better standards of life and larger freedoms. While it was the best of times for those for whom investment was increasing and prosperity was promised or present, it was also the worst of times for the majority of people on the planet -- the billions of men and women who struggled to survive on $2 a day or the millions of children who died of preventable disease each year. In our globalized world, prosperity cannot be sustained while poverty afflicts many, he said, adding that though the imbalances in trade and budget deficits, rising oil prices and fluctuating currencies were all signs of global economic fragility, the world also had the collective capacity to end hunger and poverty.
The financial resources, technical means and workable blueprints for national and international actions are available, he said. The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami had demonstrated not only the depths of human suffering, but also the heights of generosity and solidarity. In the disasters wake, it was up to ECOSOC to drive home the idea that a tsunami hit the poorest and most vulnerable peoples and nations every day -- each week, each year. We can -- and must -- generate the required international solidarity and support to prevent these daily tragedies, of dying children and mothers, hungry and humiliated men, mostly young, many desperate and often angry, he added.
Looking ahead, he said the Council had its work cut out for it. Under the Charter, it was invested with vast authority to advance the development agenda. Yet, Council members were aware that the body had not fulfilled its role as the central organ of the United Nations system in the socio-economic sphere. And while analyses of the reasons were diverse and divergent, it was clear that if the international community was to promote development as the highest priority -- as emphasized by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and the Millennium Project Report - the Council must be empowered and enabled to play its central role in promoting coherence, coordination and implementation of agreements, decisions and commitments by States, institutions, the private sector and civil society.
PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, agreed that there had been advances on many fronts over the past year. The 2004 high-level segment had been particularly successful in sustaining and further mobilizing international support for the least developed countries and had been followed by a thoughtful decision on graduating them from the list. From the coordination perspective, one highlight had been the conclusions reached on gender mainstreaming, which marked a significant step forward in advancing an approach in what must remain a key area of international concern.
He said that a thoughtful yet visionary assessment had been conducted by the advisory group on African countries emerging from conflict, which should help guide the Councils work in future. The work done by the groups on Guinea-Bissau and Burundi, as well as on Haiti, had opened new avenues for ECOSOC, in collaboration with other United Nations organs, to show the Organizations great potential to play a concrete, distinctive role in support of peace-building and a coherent approach to security and development. Indeed, 2005 would be a critical year for the Council and for the entire United Nations.
Emphasizing that the reinforcement of international cooperation and the strengthening of the Organization would not be accomplished unless it encompassed a qualitative strengthening of international cooperation for development and significant progress in the quality and depth of ECOSOCs contribution, he said that important innovations in the Councils working methods over the years had placed it at the forefront of change and reform. Clearly, reinforcement of ECOSOCs role was key to the overall strengthening of the Organization, but it was the Council itself that must carve out its role and gather the necessary political support.
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