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ECOSOC turns 75; president reaffirms mandate to tackle pandemic, development challenges

January 24, 2021

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) banners outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Sept, 20, 2019. — courtesy UN News/Conor Lennon
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) banners outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Sept, 20, 2019. — courtesy UN News/Conor Lennon

NEW YORK — Marking its 75th anniversary amid the most serious economic and health crisis the UN has ever faced, the Organization’s Economic and Social Council “has the mandate and the responsibility to respond to these challenges,” the body’s President Munir Akram said on Saturday.



“Let us work together to fulfill ECOSOC’s mandate and potential to respond to the world’s greatest challenges,” said Akram, referring to the Council — one of the six main organs of the United Nations — by its well-known acronym.

ECOSOC 101

The Economic and Social Council is at the heart of the UN system to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental.

It is the central platform for fostering debate and innovative thinking, forging consensus and cooperation on ways forward and coordinating efforts to achieve internationally agreed goals. It is also responsible for the follow-up to major UN conferences and summits.

Akram explained that the Council’s main mandate under the UN Charter is to promote better living standards in larger freedoms through international economic cooperation.

Today, twenty international organizations, regional commissions, and autonomous entities report annually to the Economic and Social Council.

Evolution and Global Goals

“Over the years, ECOSOC has been the central body for the discussion of international economic, social and development policies,” he said, noting that some of the major development concepts — the 0.7 percent official development assistance (ODA) target; the concept of Special Drawing Rights linked to development, the special and preferential treatment of developing countries in international trade, all evolved in ECOSOC’s policy discussions.

Moreover, ECOSOC was instrumental also in the adoption of key global development strategies and targets, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the crucial evolution of the 2030 Agenda for Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Tackling COVID-19, ensuring sustainable development for all

“Today, the world is facing the most serious global health and economic crisis since the establishment of the United Nations and the creation of ECOSOC,” said Akram, who is also currently Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN in New York.

He stressed that poverty has increased, as has hunger. The financial resources required for recovery by the developing countries remain to be mobilized. The achievement of the SDGs is in question. The threat of climate change appears imminent.

“And there is no assurance that the vaccine to halt the COVID-19 pandemic will be equitably available to the poorer countries,” he said, declaring: “The ECOSOC has the mandate and the responsibility to respond to these challenges.”

He called on the international community to take the opportunities provided by a series of critical ECOSOC gatherings over the coming year to craft a global response and an equitable way forward: the Council’s Financing for Development forum in April, at the Development Cooperation Forum and at the High-Level Forum in July. — UN News

January 24, 2021
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