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UNGA, ECOSOC Discuss Council Reform and Rio+20 Follow-Up

22 October 2012: During the annual joint debate with the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the work of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Member States discussed the 2012 report of ECOSOC. Statements focused on the future of ECOSOC, with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) having mandated the Council to be primarily responsible for the UN's sustainable development activities. The debate convened on 22 October 2012, in New York, US.

In his opening statement, UNGA President Vuk Jeremić called for strengthening ECOSOC in light of the Rio+20 mandate from world leaders. He called for greater involvement of the Council in the post-2015 development processes, and for coordination between ECOSOC, the Secretariat, and the UN in their shared responsibilities to set this agenda. Jeremić also reminded the Assembly of the Rio+20 mandates to: propose a financing mechanism for sustainable development; create a high-level forum for the 68th General Assembly; and determine a set of global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through an intergovernmental working group. On the relationship between the UNGA and ECOSOC, Jeremić said both bodies should be central to “multilateral cooperation efforts in the related fields of sustainable development and economic governance.”

ECOSOC Vice-President Luis Alfonso De Alba of Mexico introduced the report and focused on the new strength given to the Council at Rio+20. He said this renewed mandate ensured that ECOSOC would integrate the three environmental, social and economic pillars into its work with all relevant global actors.

States stressed the important new role for ECOSOC in UN sustainable development actions. The EU praised the Council for “fostering dialogue” on Rio+20 follow-up items, and welcomed its increased role to convene international debate on issues of development and global challenges. Belarus called the Council the “key policy platform” for coordinating strategies for global development. The US described it as an important body for sharing ideas about a development agenda for the “next generation,” but encouraged it to find ways of responding to new development actors, barriers and results.

Countries also discussed mechanisms for strengthening ECOSOC with regard to the responsibilities agreed at Rio+20. Russia stressed the creation of a new high-level political forum on sustainable development as central to strengthening the Council, along with new reforms to UN economic and social activities. Mexico said the Council should show leadership in global development coordination, and should be tasked with evaluating progress towards international development commitments. He envisions the high-level forum as a converging “bridge” for the development agenda, coordinating actions between relevant global actors, the UNGA and ECOSOC. [UN Webcast] [UN Press Release] [Opening Remarks by UNGA President]