The 54-member United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) concluded its month-long Substantive Session last Friday, with its President acknowledging the “good progress” made in the follow-up to the 2005 World Summit.
“This year’s ECOSOC has set the stage for serious follow-up actions in the area of public health such as the development of action plans on health literacy or multi-sectoral partnerships on health challenges,” declared ECOSOC President Sylvie Lucas. “It is furthermore heartening that the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the conclusion of the high-level segment not only promotes consensus on issues ranging from communicable and non-communicable diseases to neglected tropical diseases, and from health systems and services to universal access to reproductive health, but also contains concrete measures to advance the realization of the global public health goals,” she stated.
Also participating was UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang who stressed that the preparatory meetings of ECOSOC, Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) deliberations and the Ministerial Declaration have helped in placing public health at the centre of international concerns. “We were able to engage different ministries and levels of government in pursuing health goals. The message is clear that development and public health must be pursued in an integrated way”.
Mr. Sha also highlighted the various initiatives that came out of the Substantive Session and its preparatory process, among them, the proposals to develop regional action plans on health literacy; establish multi-sectoral task forces to combat non-communicable diseases; initiatives to address global road safety issues and strengthening international cooperation in this field; and variety of actions to improve health outcomes. “The session has laid the foundations for giving new impetus to the realization of the goals related to public health,” Mr. Sha added.
He also noted the exceptional levels of participation during the NGO forum, and the preparatory activities such as the e-forum, the regional preparatory meetings, the Innovation Fair and other side events. More than 40 NGOs contributed on the issue of health at the session, and others participated in the preparations for the National Voluntary Presentations.
Referring to the success of the recent m-Health pilot initiative, Texting4Health, organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of Uganda, he stressed that his Department could develop a similar project, next year, during the preparatory process of the 2010 AMR focusing on the challenges in promoting greater gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The Coordination Segment assessed the UN system role and activities by focusing on the follow up to the 2008 Ministerial Declaration on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development”. Ms. Lucas said that to “address the impact of the current crises we need policies that ensure coherence across economic, social and environmental areas,” noting that the challenges ahead for the UN system in strengthening its efforts to promote sustainable development are not only about scaling up current initiatives, but also about developing the capacities to adopt more comprehensive approaches.
ECOSOC also organized its Operational Activities Segment and concentrated on the implementation of the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR) of UN system operational activities. Mr. Sha highlighted that the Council’s resolution for the TCPR focused in four areas: strengthening the resident coordinator’s role; developing comprehensive policies for human resource planning and deployment; rectifying the harmful imbalance between core and non-core resources; and harmonizing business practices of the UN system.
The Humanitarian Affairs Segment discussed the challenges, opportunities and activities related to the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations. Under this theme, the Council adopted a resolution that called upon all States and parties to comply fully with the provisions of international humanitarian law.
As part of the General Segment, the Council reviewed the reports of its subsidiary bodies and of other United Nations entities working in the economic and social fields. It also discussed the work of coordination bodies, such as the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. The Council also focused on the long-term programme of support for Haiti and extended the mandate of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti until the 2010 Substantive Session.
During the Segment, Member States acknowledged ECOSOC’s role in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. It was said that a joint meeting of ECOSOC and the Peacebuilding Commission on the impact of the food and economic crises on countries emerging from conflict would be organized in mid-October. Ms. Lucas stressed that there is “undoubtedly a great potential for a closer cooperation and a strengthened relationship between the two bodies”.
For 2010, Mr. Sha called attention to the critical task the Council has set for itself in focusing on gender equality and empowerment of women. “ECOSOC can bring a whole range of actors to embrace the mission of empowering women and combating the worst forms of discrimination and abuse”.
As part of the 2010 Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), Ms. Lucas called on Member States from the North and the South to engage in the DCF preparations, together with the range of stakeholders that are part of today’s complex development cooperation architecture. “The preparations for the second DCF will place a particular focus on mutual accountability in development cooperation, South-South and triangular cooperation as well as coherence in the way aid is managed to promote other forms of financing for development,” she said.
The overall organizational process of the ECOSOC Substantive Session was successfully prepared by staff of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), in collaboration with the Subsidiary Bodies of ECOSOC; United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes; United Nations Office at Geneva; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); and the Department of Public Information (DPI).
UN Staff in DESA, DPI and UN Information Centers around the world (Accra; Bangkok; Colombo; Manama; and Port-of-Spain), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) also played an important strategic role in the media and communications aspects of the AMR regional preparatory meetings in China, Ghana, Jamaica, Qatar, and Sri Lanka.
Operational Activities Segment (15-17 July 2009)
General Segment (23-30 July 2009)