UN Member States Discuss ECOSOC Institutional Components, HLPF
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
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UN Member States met for a third informal meeting to discuss the ECOSOC review process, and provided views on a food for thought paper released in advance by the co-facilitators.

The co-facilitators announced that an elements paper and a schedule for the next meetings will be prepared, and that negotiations should conclude towards the end of May.

19 April 2018: Meeting to discuss the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) review process, UN Member States provided views on a “food for thought” paper from the co-facilitators. Discussions addressed the relationship between ECOSOC’s high-level segment (HLS) and the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the relevance of the ECOSOC Integration Segment, and stakeholder engagement, among other issues.

The ECOSOC review process is mandated in UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 68/1, which calls for governments to conduct a review of reforms undertaken to strengthen ECOSOC following an earlier resolution (A/RES/61/16). The food for thought paper, released on 9 March 2018, compiles options suggested by delegations and offers “reflection, proposals and analysis” on various ECOSOC components. It was preceded by a February 2018 background paper and informal consultations with UN Member States on 6 February and 26 February 2018.

The food for thought paper describes the review process as an opportunity for UN Member States to review and refine the ECOSOC cycle and clarify roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability. The paper also indicates that the review process is related to current UN reform initiatives, such as the revitalization of the work of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), UN development system reforms, the process of alignment of the agendas of the UNGA and the ECOSOC and their subsidiary bodies in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the upcoming review of the HLPF by the UNGA.

During the third informal meeting held on 19 April 2018, in New York, US, several delegations asked for better coordination between ECOSOC and the UNGA, and a group of countries called for a common understanding of the division of labor between both organs, adding that those should be complementary and focus on their specific mandates. Some Member States stressed the need for greater coherence between the annual main theme of the HLPF and of the ECOSOC HLS. Some UN Member States suggested merging the two, while others called for better complementarity, and for the outcome of the HLS to be “more action-oriented.”

On the structure of the ECOSOC cycle, a group of countries supported keeping the “July-to-July” cycle. One delegation proposed organizing the cycle into clusters of meetings, with meetings related to financing in May, and meetings related to operational activities in June, followed by the HLPF in July. On allocating more time to Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during the HLPF, it was suggested to avoid holding six one-hour VNRs per day for a total of eight days of presentation, as outlined in the paper; instead, informal VNR presentations could be held during side events, or other informal discussions.

Some countries called for eliminating ECOSOC’s Integration Segment, noting redundancy with the HLPF, and suggested moving its substantive elements into the HLPF. Another Member State suggested keeping the Integration Segment, but holding it back-to-back with the HLPF to focus on issues that cannot be sufficiently discussed during the Forum.

On system-wide coherence coordination and coherence through ECOSOC’s Operational Activities Segment (OAS), a delegation suggested holding two sessions per year, each with different functions: one focused on policy guidance; and another focused on guidance for operational assistance that would take place back-to-back with the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment. Several countries said they did not favor having two OAS sessions per year. On coordination and management of ECOSOC functions, delegates discussed the need to revisit the ECOSOC Coordination and Management (CMM) meetings to make them more relevant and efficient. UN Member States also discussed the development, humanitarian and peacebuilding nexus, including the need for strengthening links between ECOSOC and the UN Peacebuilding Commission, and for better articulating UNGA and ECOSOC humanitarian resolutions to avoid duplication.

Governments underlined the relevance of considering “frontier” and emerging issues as part of ECOSOC’s work, with some noting that this should not lead to “a proliferation of meetings” and would not require a specific segment. A delegate noted that the whole UN system should identify emerging challenges, and ECOSOC should not be the exception.

Some supported the food for thought paper’s proposal to better integrate gender equality into ECOSOC’s work. Many highlighted the importance of stakeholder participation and multi-stakeholder partnerships, and some called for improving the working methods of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs.

On ECOSOC subsidiary bodies, a group of countries noted that subsidiary bodies should review their methods of work to best deliver on the 2030 Agenda, and called for greater integration of policy recommendations into the HLPF. Delegations also discussed the need to improve, reform or merge some subsidiary bodies. Several UN Member States asked for an update on the reform of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Co-facilitator Alya Ahmed Al Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar, announced that the co-facilitators will prepare an elements paper based on the comments received, as well as a schedule for subsequent meetings. Co-facilitator Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland, indicated that negotiations should conclude by the end of May. [Co-Facilitators’ Letter of 9 March 2018 and Food for Thought Paper] [Co-Facilitators’ Letter Announcing 19 April 2018 Meeting] [Co-Facilitators’ Letter Postponing the 19 March 2018 Meeting] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Co-Facilitators’ Informal Background Paper on ‘Review of General Assembly resolution 68/1] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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