6 March 2018
Co-facilitators Issue Background Paper to Inform ECOSOC Review
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The co-facilitators for the UN Economic and Social Council review issued an informal background paper as an input to future discussions.

The two first informal meetings on the review process took place on 6 and 26 February 2018.

The co-facilitators intend to prepare a "food for thought" paper in advance of the next meeting, scheduled for 19 March.

16 February 2018: The co-facilitators for the review of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) reforms have issued an informal background paper as an input to future discussions. Per the paper, the ECOSOC review process offers the potential to discuss whether the Council’s current arrangements are sufficient for supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related commitments, and offers the potential to make refinements as needed.

The ECOSOC review was mandated by UNGA resolution 68/1, which calls for government to conduct a review of reforms undertaken to strengthen ECOSOC following an earlier resolution (A/RES/61/16). Alya Ahmed Al Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar, and Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland, serve as co-facilitators for the review process.

Titled ‘Review of General Assembly resolution 68/1,’ the informal background paper outlines “key issues” in the implementation of UNGA resolution 68/1 in the context of the 2030 Agenda. It includes sections on: strengthening ECOSOC’s common vision and strategy; pursuing substantive integration; fostering effective system-wide coherence and coordination; addressing the “development-humanitarian-peacebuilding continuum” and emergencies; bringing global attention to emerging issues; engaging stakeholders; improving working methods; and key questions for further consideration.

Some have criticized the “distinct but closely related” themes of ECOSOC and the HLPF as creating confusion.

According to the paper, some have criticized the current arrangements as creating confusion, especially regarding the “distinct but closely related” themes of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and ECOSOC. The paper therefore notes that Member States could further discuss the current approach of selecting and using an annual main theme for ECOSOC and a separate theme for the HLPF sessions held under its auspices. It adds that the work of ECOSOC and HLPF, including agendas and schedules, could be more strongly aligned, and decided upon with sufficient time for planning, coordination and building opportunities for synergy.

On leadership and strategic direction on the 2030 Agenda, the paper notes that Member States could discuss how ECOSOC can improve the impact of its overall policy dialogue and recommendations, through its Ministerial Declaration adopted at the conclusion of the HLPF and High-level Segment, or through the agreed conclusions, decisions and resolutions resulting from the ECOSOC system’s deliberations.

On integration, the paper indicates that there are approximately 30 UN bodies with a direct reporting relationship to ECOSOC, including: eight functional commissions; five regional commissions; three standing committees; one ad hoc body; eight expert bodies; and four related bodies – and discussions could explore ways to more effectively integrate the subsidiary bodies into ECOSOC’s work. The paper also suggests a discussion on the ECOSOC Integration Segment, addressing: whether it could be better timed to more effectively feed into the HLPF and ECOSOC High-level Segment; whether it should mainly discuss areas requiring significantly strengthened integration efforts towards the 2030 Agenda; and ways by which its policy recommendations could better inform discussions at the HLPF and at the ECOSOC High-level Segment.

The paper outlines that changes to the content and structure of the Operational Activities for Development Segment (OAS) could be discussed to address its “unfulfilled potential” as an accountability platform for system-wide performance on the 2030 Agenda. This could be achieved, it notes, by holding two OAS sessions per year, including one that could provide policy guidance on system-wide action at all levels, and one that could focus on strengthening the normative-operational linkages across sustainable development, humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding efforts.

On engaging stakeholders, the paper indicates that more than 4,860 NGOs are currently in active consultative status with ECOSOC, and the growing demand for inclusion remains an important aspect of the Council’s work. It suggests to consider the challenge of streamlining the rules and practices of participation of such stakeholders in ECOSOC, its forums and Functional Commissions, noting that currently, the rules and practices “vary greatly.”

The paper also observes that there is scope for further improving ECOSOC system’s working methods to ensure that the sequencing of its sessions will culminate in the global review of the 2030 Agenda at the HLPF and the ECOSOC High-level Segment.

Member States held two informal meetings on the ECOSOC review process, on 6 and 26 February 2018. Per a letter dated 16 February 2018, the co-facilitators intend to prepare a food for thought paper in advance of the next meeting, scheduled to take place on 19 March. [Co-Facilitators’ Letter and Informal Background Paper] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 6 February Meeting]

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