New President of top UN economic and social body to push for development financing, fundamental freedoms ‘for all’

25 July 2019

In her inaugural speech as President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Mona Juul, of Norway, underscored that the body’s mandate today remains “as relevant and compelling” as it did back in 1945 when it was tasked with “fostering international cooperation on economic, social, and cultural issues”.

Having served as one of the four ECOSOC Vice-Presidents, Ms. Juul was elected by acclamation on Thursday morning.

The Council should promote “universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. For all”, continued the newly elected president. “Without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.

“Today, we also have the overarching 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, she stated, which “guides our efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all”.

ECOSOC offers “a multitude of opportunities” to assist the global community in reaching the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Ms. Juul said, noting that “ECOSOC and its intergovernmental structures make up a whole ecosystem”, with each component providing a specific function.

She thanked her predecessor, Rhonda King, for “her great work and dedication”.

“It is my ambition as President, to make ECOSOC work better – as an ecosystem” Ms. Juul declared, saying that she would work “to ensure that we collectively deliver on our goals”.

She encouraged the Council to use the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to follow-up and review the Agenda 2030, saying that she would hold “an inclusive, fact-based and action-oriented” HLPF in 2020.

The new chief also advocated that ECOSOC align “the whole UN family” for improved results and under Government leadership, strive to make a difference in countries.

‘Value to people’

“The UN must be of value to people”, she stressed, forecasting that UN reform would yield “better, more coherent and more effective” results.

Citing the Secretary-General’s call for bold changes in UN funding, she asserted that “the UN development system needs more flexible and predictable funding”.

And at the same time, the UN development system “must deliver on their commitments”, she stated. “We expect better results, greater transparency and accountability, and a more efficiency”.

“Unless we see a reformed UN, our credibility is at stake”, she upheld. “The true test of our success will be whether persons, communities and countries actually experience improvement in their lives and societies”.

Issues on the table:

  • Women's participation as a prerequisite and key factor for economic growth.
  • Increased domestic resource mobilization is crucial to achieve the SDGs.
  • Stopping illicit financial flows.
  • A broad and forceful international coalition to fight corruption.
  • Hard talk on responsible borrowing and lending to stem growing debt distress.
  • Fair and predictable taxation regimes.
  • Transformative solutions on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Ms. Juul said that women’s rights and gender equality “must remain a reform priority and a cross-cutting issue”, and that “ECOSOC must place gender equality at the heart of our work”.

“Next year, we celebrate 25 years of championing women's rights since we adopted the Beijing Platform for Action”, she flagged, calling it “a vision of a more prosperous, peaceful and fair world, that is better for women and men, girls and boys”.

Turning to the 2019 Financing for Sustainable Development Report, she pointed out that collective action is “truly” needed to address today’s global challenges.

“Rather than retreating from multilateralism, the international community should acknowledge what is at stake”, she pinpointed. “We must accelerate the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the global partnership for sustainable development that it sets out”.

Ms. Juul vowed to “make financing for development a priority of my presidency” as transparent and well-functioning institutions, good governance and anti-corruption measures are “key policy areas”.

She promised that Norway will “work hard to enable ECOSOC to do its very best for our common future”.

“I will rely on all of you so we together can live up to the expectations of the people we serve”, concluded the new ECOSOC president.

ECOSOC remains ‘formidable tool’ for development cooperation – outgoing Council President

For her part, outgoing ECOSOC President Rhonda King, of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, spotlighted strides made during the Council’s 2019 session, and also voiced her conviction that much more can – and will – be done in 2020. 

Describing the recently-concluded HLPF and its Voluntary National Review (VNR) process as the “jewels” of the Council’s agenda, she said discussions at the 2019 Forum revealed that countries are not yet on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

However, she said, that meeting also demonstrated that there is still time to change course.  “It is our mandate to use [the Economic and Social Council] to guide the work of the United Nations system,” she said. 

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (second from left) addressing the opening of the 2020 session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). During the meeting, Mona Juul (second from right), Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, was elected

While it may not be the Organization’s most glamorous organ, the Council remains a formidable tool and should seek to deepen its collaboration with other agencies and Charter bodies, stated Ms. King.  

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, thanking Ms. King for her work, highlighted her many achievements, including efforts to make the Council deliver on its mandate, from addressing climate action to widening participation of young people.

Confident that the newly-elected members will continue this legacy, she commended ECOSOC for electing a woman President for the third consecutive year.

Nevertheless, Ms. Mohammed stressed that great challenges remain, and more action is needed to realize the SDGs. In 2019, the Council’s segments and forums paved the way for a valuable High-Level Political Forum, and steps must be taken ahead of time to plan well for the next one.

The Council must continue to discharge its important work as the world transitions into a new phase to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, she stressed.

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

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