21 September 2012

Press Conference on Economic and Social Council Ministerial Meeting

21 September 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE on Economic and Social Council Ministerial meeting


The United Nations needed to regain relevance to rise to the twenty-first century’s new challenges, including the recent food and financial crises, the Senior Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council told reporters today at Headquarters, as he announced a special ministerial meeting on sustainable development — “Building the Future We Want” — to be held here on 24 September.

“We are very much aware that a new architecture for economic, social and environmental agendas needs to be built,” said Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico.  “Multilateral organizations in general need to adjust to the new challenges and we have been able to agree on a number of issues, particularly coming out of the Rio+20 Summit”.

He reminded correspondents that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio in June, had identified actions to be taken to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development:  economic, social and environmental.  “This is easy to say and very difficult to achieve because it requires actions by different institutions,” he said. 

With more governmental and non-governmental actors taking part in sustainable development discussions, better coordination was needed among multilateral organizations to best manage all the stakeholders.  Addressing the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 deadline period required a much more sophisticated agenda that would integrate all dimensions of the process with a universal set of goals, not only for developing countries but for all countries.

For the United Nations, that meant examining the follow-ups to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development and this year’s Rio+20.  The special ministerial meeting next week would identify the role of the Council, which had been tasked by the Rio Conference to facilitate integration of the three development pillars and to serve as a platform for better interaction among stakeholders.

The outcome of the forthcoming meeting would feed into the reform process on the heels of the new General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić’s reform initiatives.  By year’s end, “we will have a process of solid reform of the multilateral system dealing with the economic, social and environmental issues,” he said.

Asked how much success could be achieved with the rule of law amid unmet official development assistance (ODA) pledges, Mr. de Alba said the reform included establishing a working group to examine financing for sustainable development.  That would help “get all the pieces of the puzzle together” and channel resources and follow-up process.  The working group, which would be assembled in the coming weeks, would contain 30 countries and produce proposals that would be put forth at a high-level meeting next year, he said.

Elaborating on blueprints for the new architectural structure, he said it was necessary to adapt institutions and open the space around the same table for other actors.  “Today, one single delegation cannot represent all the interests of a country,” he said, pointing out that local government and the private sector did not yet have a seat at that “table”.  “We have been dealing with issues in silos, and if we want an integration of the three pillars, the United Nations may be the space in which we coincide.”

As for how the Council should function within the United Nations system, he acknowledged that it had failed to respond to a number of challenges.  But the biggest was to the United Nations itself, which needed to recover its relevance.

“We need to work much closer to other institutions,” including the Bretton Woods institutions and regional groups, and innovative coordination strategies, such as those used by the G-20 should be considered, he said.

“ECOSOC has lost relevance in a number of issues.  The most important is the fragmentation of its own agenda and its lack of capacity to react to real problems the international community is facing,” he said, adding that its reform would allow it to meet more often in a timely fashion and broaden its approach to various issues.  It was very frustrating, for instance, that no linkages had been made among the follow-ups to the Rio+20, Copenhagen and Monterrey Conferences.  Overall, he said, “we need a different dynamic”.

When asked how long it would take for the United Nations to recover its relevance, he said “we need a change of attitude and of culture [to recognize] that there are new actors, new balances in the capacity of countries to contribute and the potentiality of South-South cooperation and new ways of doing business.  If we achieve that change, we will be in a relatively good position to identify our role”.  The United Nations had many advantages, among them was its role as a convening body in a variety of fields, from disarmament to development.

“But the new architecture of the twenty-first century cannot be an architecture on which a single organization may make all decisions,” he said.  That was largely because in the past, a diplomat used to represent a State, whereas now, with modern communications, a variety of actors were involved in decision-making.  In addition, specialized entities had not had the means to communicate effectively to all stakeholders.

He also suggested that there should be a comprehensive agenda that allowed for the specificities of vulnerable countries and which embraced the realities of all countries.  Each nation had different capabilities and responsibilities, all of which could enrich international cooperation, he concluded.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.