Delegates shared initial views on the ECOSOC review process and key issues to be addressed.
Another informal meeting is expected to take place in approximately two weeks, with an informal background paper on the review to be issued in advance of that meeting.
6 February 2018: UN Member States held an informal consultation to begin the review of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which was mandated in UNGA resolution 68/1. Several governments called to revisit some of ECOSOC’s segments in light of the UN High-level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF), and for engaging more with stakeholders.
UNGA resolution 68/1 calls for government to conduct a review of reforms undertaken to strengthen ECOSOC following an earlier resolution, 61/16. Alya Ahmed Al Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar, and Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland, serve as co-facilitators for the review.
At the first informal consultation, held on 6 February 2018, in New York, US, several UN Member States Several outlined the Council’s important role in coordinating the follow-up of the outcomes of major UN summit and conferences, and in achieving a balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development. They also called for revisiting the integration segment and other aspects, in light of the HLPF, and for engaging more with civil society organizations (CSOs), the private sector and academia.
Al Thani invited delegates to discuss ways to approach the review of resolution 68/1 in order to cover its substantive and structural aspects, and to ensure that it takes into account related processes, without overburdening its focus. She called on UN Member States to reflect on ECOSOC leadership, strategic direction and guidance, and on whether changes should be made within and across the “various interlinked functions of the ECOSOC cycle.”
Egypt, on behalf of the Group of 77 (G-77), said the current process to reform the UN development system should be completed before engaging in the ECOSOC review process. In addition, the ECOSOC review process should not “prejudge” discussions on the UN development system reform. Bangladesh also favored a “sequential” approach to the UN development system reform and the ECOSOC review.
The EU suggested starting with an assessment of the extent to which resolution 68/1 has been implemented. He noted that ECOSOC should be “fully aligned” with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and said structures established before 2015 should be revisited in light of the 2030 Agenda. He also outlined the importance of avoiding duplication and ensuring complementarity between the UNGA and ECOSOC, and suggested that ECOSOC should focus on providing guidance to the UN system.
The US called for a 50% cut in UN reports, conferences and negotiations.
The US called for a 50% cut in UN reports, conferences and negotiations, adding “we need to talk less and do more,” since “development outcomes on the ground should be our focus.” He also suggested: that the ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment (OAS) be system-wide to ensure better UN coherence; and to review the performance of the UN regional commissions to ensure that they are streamlined and effective.
Switzerland said the review should ensure that all ECOSOC segments contribute in the “best and meaningful way” to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development (FfD), and provide operational guidance to the UN development system on these Agendas. He argued for the HLPF to serve as the “concluding moment” of the ECOSOC cycle, and asked to avoid lengthy negotiations.
Mexico said ECOSOC reform is a complex process as it also includes the HLPF. He noted that some elements of the HLPF should be reviewed, adding that the HLPF’s parallel events in 2017 were more substantive and better attended than the HLPF itself. He also underlined the need to allocate more time for the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) at the HLPF, while not increasing the number of meeting days, but using them more effectively. China said efforts to strengthen ECOSOC should be driven by UN Member States, and the review should aim to reinforce the central role of ECOSOC on economic development and raise its status in global economic governance.
Japan remarked that the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and AAAA are among ECOSOC’s more important roles. He noted that the coming months include several negotiation processes, including on the UN development system reforms, the outcome of the FfD Forum in April and the HLPF ministerial declaration, to be negotiated in June and July. Japan also called for integrating the themes of the HLPF and ECOSOC to ensure coherence in follow-up and review.
Co-facilitator Al Thani announced that a second informal meeting will take place in approximately two weeks, and that an informal background paper on the review is currently being prepared by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and will be issued in advance of that meeting.
The consultation followed a retreat hosted by ECOSOC President Marie Chatardova on ‘Fulfilling the vision of the 2030 Agenda: Integrated Analyses from ECOSOC and its System,’ which took place from 2-3 February 2018, in New York, US. [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on informal consultations] [Co-facilitators’ letter, January 2018] [Co-facilitators’ letter, December 2017] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on 68/1 Review] [About Resolution 68/1] [IISD sources]