Economic and Social Council

Note: Following is a partial summary of today’s meetings of the Economic and Social Council. A complete summary of today’s Council meetings will be available later today following the conclusion of the afternoon meeting as Press Release ECOSOC/6996.

Statistical Commission

JULIO SANTAELLA (Mexico), Vice-Chair of the Statistical Commission at its fiftieth session, joining via videolink from Mexico, introduced that session’s report (document E/2019/24).  For more than 70 years, the Commission has worked tirelessly to make data compatible all over the world, he said, noting that it coordinates its efforts with the Economic and Social Council.  It held its fiftieth session in New York on 5 to 8 March and, for the first time, its Chair met with the Secretary-General and briefed him on the most salient discussion points.  The Commission discussed the need for a stronger focus on official statistics within the United Nations system and supported recommendations to strengthen statistician mechanisms.  It also called for key statistics on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to be presented to the Council.

The Council then adopted the draft decision contained in the report titled “Report of the Statistical Commission on its fiftieth session and the provisional agenda and dates for the fifty-first session of the Commission”.

Mainstreaming Three Dimensions of Sustainable Development

ALEXANDER TREPELKOV, Officer in Charge of the Division for Sustainable Development Goals, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the mainstreaming of the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout the United Nations system (document E/2019/13).  He said the report provides an update on the actions and initiatives of the system to further intensify efforts to streamline the economic, social and environmental dimensions.  The report highlights the many United Nations entities that are operationalizing the principle of “leaving no one behind”.  United Nations entities have followed up on the strategic decisions of their respective intergovernmental bodies and are striving to realign their strategic objectives, budgets and programmatic activities with the Goals to support Member States in their implementation.

The latest “Greening the Blue” report, which outlines the Organization’s efforts to reduce its own environmental footprint, includes greenhouse gas emissions data from 66 entities across the United Nations system, he said.  The main challenges across the Secretariat are to reduce waste, better manage water and increase energy efficiency.  Environmental considerations have been integrated into the regular planning and budgeting process, starting with the preparation of the proposed programme for 2020.  Mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development – by Governments, the United Nations system and indeed all stakeholders – is essential to meeting the 2030 Agenda.  “The challenge ahead is to scale up efforts,” he said.

Food Security and Nutrition

MARIO ARVELO (Dominican Republic), Chair of the Committee on World Food Security, presented the Secretary-General’s note (document A/74/79–E/2019/58) on the Committee’s main decisions and policy recommendations.  Highlighted concerns about a rise in hunger, mostly among women and children in developing countries at a time when the number of cases of obesity continue to grow, he said efforts are not on track to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.  Highlighting some of the work of the Committee’s forty-fifth session, he said a zero draft on guidelines will include consultations with all regions and will constitute a major contribution to global efforts.  During the sessions, participants also discussed the findings of a study on multi-stakeholder partnerships, which help to address multidimensional issues.  Ahead of the high-level meeting on sustainable development in July, the Committee has submitted contributions including on fostering sustainable agriculture, strengthening resilience and improving food security and nutrition.

STINEKE OENEMA, Coordinator of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document E/2019/57) transmitting the Committee’s report, said modest progress on undernutrition is not quick enough and is being offset by other forms of malnutrition, including obesity.  To get back on track to realize the 2030 Agenda targets, systemic change is needed, with food system transformation being essential as it is central to other problems, including biodiversity loss and climate change.  An entry point for change is promoting health and sustainable diets, as it is a good example of a multiple duty action.  Sustainable diets have the potential to improve health and also contribute to the mitigation of climate change and reduction of biodiversity loss.  The synergy between health and the environment is not yet realized everywhere, but it is the message the Committee brings to several United Nations intergovernmental bodies beyond Rome.  To help consumers choose healthier diets and support sustainable producers for a healthier food basket, she called for coherent policies such as agricultural and trade decisions aligned with public health policies; investments that foster healthy diets; and research that moves beyond the mere production of major staples and livestock species.

The representative of Romania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, commenting on the role of the United Nations in the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda, expressed concern that agreed language was not used in the related report on mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development through the United Nations system.  Instead of the commitment of “no one will be left behind”, the report states “no country and no one is left behind”.  Noting a gradual and subtle movement in the concept of development that focuses on States and not individuals, she called on the Secretariat to stay true to the spirit of the 2030 Agenda at a time when the world should be focused on achieving this goal and not rewriting already agreed language.

The representative of the Russian Federation said attention must be paid to the use of incorrect terminology regarding human rights.  On nutrition-related issues, he said the Committee on World Food Security guidelines will be helpful and it should maintain its inclusive nature.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) welcomed and supported the guidelines and reaffirmed related objectives within and beyond the United Nations system.  Noting that efforts are not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2, she said bold and transformative action is needed.  From the agriculture viewpoint, it means adopting sustainable food systems that promote healthier diets, prevent biodiversity loss and help farmers.  Investing in food and nutrition goes far beyond Goal 2, she said, calling attention to the forthcoming launch of a FAO report with the latest figures on these and other related issues.

Mr. ARVELO said the Committee’s intergovernmental aspects include involving a range of stakeholders, including the private sector, research centres and civil society; however, decision-making is reserved for Member States.

Follow-up to International Conference on Financing for Development

The Council then turned to the Follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development, and had before it its own report on financing for development follow-up, including the intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations of the Economic and Social Council forum (document E/FFDF/2019/3).  It also had before it a summary by the Council’s President, including on the high-level meeting with Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (document E/2019/71).

The Council took action on the first report, requesting the transmittal of its forum’s conclusions and recommendations to the High-level Political Forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Council.


MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, presented the outcome of the sixty-third session, held 11 to 22 March under the theme “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.  The Commission adopted agreed conclusions in five key areas:  making infrastructure work for women and girls; mobilizing resources; and strengthening the following areas:  normative, legal and policy frameworks; women’s and girls’ access to social protection; and their access to public services.  The conclusions, among other things, emphasize the need for coordinated approaches and provide an important input to the work of the Council and the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  Some of the session’s activities included considering women and girls of African descent as a focus area, convening two interactive panel discussions and evaluating progress on implementing the agreed conclusions from its sixtieth session, under the theme “Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development”.  Ahead of the twenty-fifth anniversary in 2020 of the Fourth World Conference on Women, he said the Commission’s sixty-fourth session will focus on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action.

ĂSA REGNÉR, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/2019/54), highlighting efforts to advance progress through the updated action plan, known as UN-SWAP 2.0, and the new UNCT-SWAP gender equality score card.  Reporting on these efforts for 2018 indicates progress, she said, first noting that on UN-SWAP 2.0, 66 entities, or 93 per cent of all United Nations agencies, reported on the action plan.  In addition, the system met 58 per cent of performance requirements, representing a 7 per cent decline from 2017 that reflected the introduction of higher standards for new and existing indicators.  Efforts continue to reflect considerable progress relative to 2012, when the United Nations met only 31 per cent of requirements, she said, adding that the report points out that further progress on UN-SWAP 2.0 will require sustained attention, improved capacities and enhanced resources.  On UNCT-SWAP, 24 United Nations country teams implemented the new accountability tool, with 46 per cent meeting or exceeding minimum requirements for performance indicators, she said, noting that Nepal and Uzbekistan scored highest.

Furthering progress depends on examining the most significant gaps and challenges, she continued.  Expressing great concern about resource allocation for gender-related work and the equal representation of women, as only 11 entities are meeting representation requirements and few have reached allocation targets, she underlined a strong need for further support.  Several sustained, concrete actions required of all United Nations entities include continued leadership, ongoing guidance and investing adequate financial and human resources.  “Gender mainstreaming remains the most viable strategy for achieving gender equality outcomes,” she said.

ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa) introduced the draft resolution “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/2019/L.10), highlighting such provisions as details on resource allocation for related activities and on ensuring the equal representation of women and men.  The draft resolution should guide all stakeholders to assess system performance and address existing gaps, she said, adding that Member States must do their part to ensure that the United Nations leads by example.

The Council then adopted “L.10”.

The representative of the United States, explaining her delegation’s position, said investing in women is vital for global stability.  On language in “L.10” related to the 2030 Agenda, she said that instrument is non-binding, does not include financial commitments, must respect States and does not alter any World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements.

The Council then adopted a draft decision titled ”Report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixty-third session and provisional agenda and documentation for the sixty-fourth session of the Commission”, contained in the Commission’s report from its sixty third session (document E/2019/27).

The representative of Ireland said both years that she was Chair of the Commission there was very vibrant participation from civil society and Member States were exceptional in their negotiation efforts.  This reaffirms collective commitment to the empowerment of women and girls.

The representative of the United States said it was not a member of the Commission at its sixty-third session and did not participate in the conclusion of its outcome.  The United States has since returned to active membership of the Commission, she said, noting her country’s substantive concerns and expressing hope that working methods would be improved.

The representative of Mexico, also speaking on behalf of Andorra, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Philippines, United Kingdom and Uruguay, expressed full support for the report, adding that negotiations were conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner.  The proceedings of the closed meetings adhered to the rules and practices of the Commission.  While welcoming improvements to the working methods, she also underscored the need to abide by these rules to ensure orderly, fair and effective proceedings.

The Council also took note of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its seventieth, seventy-first and seventy-second sessions (document A/74/38).

The representative of the United States said that the United Nations is pushing for the legalization of abortion, which is an inappropriate approach, adding also that the United States does not recognize the concept of therapeutic abortion.

Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for 2011–2020

FEKITAMOELOA KATOA ′UTOIKAMANU, High Representative and Under-Secretary-General for Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the “Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020,” (document E/2019/12).  She said that an unprecedented number of Member States have met the graduation criteria from the group of least developed countries.  “The purpose is straightforward – we must step up coordinated United Nations system-wide support to graduating least developed countries,” she said.  While much progress has been made in terms of fighting poverty in these countries, projections indicate that nearly 30 per cent of their populations will remain in extreme poverty by 2030.  Agriculture, food security and rural development are issues of main concern.  Agricultural productivity has declined while the number of undernourished people is on the rise.

“International support remains critically important to the least developed countries,” she said, also cautioning that the risk of leaving behind people in this group of countries is mounting.  External indebtedness remains a considerable obstacle.  Connectivity, including mobile broadband coverage, and access to electricity and to clean energy are determining factors for their sustainable development.  While school enrolment rates have improved, 1 in 5 children of primary school age are still not attending.  Unemployment, gender parity, high maternal and infant mortality rates, and the effects of climate change all remain critical concerns as well.  Development gains must at the same time be consolidated and safeguarded,” she said, stressing the need to ensure that least developed countries do not fall behind.

The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that least developed countries continue to have significant development gaps.  “We have an opportunity to reinvigorate our efforts” to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he emphasized, adding that least developed countries need global support to achieve sustainable development.  He expressed concern about the decline of official development assistance (ODA) and urged Member States to honour their pledges and commitments to the group of countries that needs support most.

The representative of Turkey, as co-facilitator of the resolution, commended Qatar for offering to host the Conference.  Highlighting that some United Nations agencies do not recognize least-developed-country status, she underscored that it is important that all agencies recognize this status as it will help coordinate support and monitor progress.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution titled “Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020” (document E/2019/L.17),  endorsing the offer of Qatar to host the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Doha at the highest levels in 2021.

Social and Human Rights Questions

SAMA SALEM POULES (Iraq), Vice-Chair of the Commission for Social Development, presented the report of its fifty-seventh session, held 11 to 21 February, on the priority theme “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies” (document E/2019/26).  The Commission held four high-level panel discussions and a ministerial forum for sharing national and regional experiences.  It also identified as an emerging issue the empowerment of youth, older persons and those with disabilities who are affected by natural and human-made disasters and reviewed relevant United Nations plans and progress pertaining to the situation of social groups and dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  During the session, Member States underscored that persistent inequalities undermine social cohesion and trust in public institutions, leading to tensions that intensified social divisions and exclusion.  Findings included the benefits of taxation, promoting decent work for all and introducing policies to benefit families.

She went on to highlight the draft resolutions the Commission approved.  She said the draft titled “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies” underscores the benefits of inclusive and more equitably distributed growth to address inequalities and promote inclusion.  In approving the resolution titled “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development”, the Commission decided to give due consideration to the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  The text titled “Policies and programmes involving youth” recognizes the importance of their full participation, and the draft titled “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission for Social Development” reaffirmed Member States’ commitment to strengthening the Commission as the principal United Nations forum for global dialogue on social development issues and decided that the fifty-eighth session’s theme will be “Affordable Housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness”.

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the “Implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes” (document E/2019/4), said that the report analyses recent trends in family poverty, work-family balance and unpaid work, as well as the role of families in inclusive societies.  It highlights good practices in family policymaking at national and international levels and confirms that Member States consider family and children-focused interventions as conducive to achieving sustainable development.  Both cash benefits and services improve school enrolment, health and nutrition, labour market participation and gender equality, thus contributing to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals.  Investments in parenting education – with a focus on positive forms of discipline – also require more attention at the household and community levels.  The report demonstrates that sustainable development cannot be accomplished through stand-alone approaches, she said.

The representative of Mexico said that the report would also be presented to the General Assembly, which only underscores the need to address duplication of work within the United Nations.

The Council then adopted three draft resolutions contained in the report respectively titled, “Future organization and methods of the Commission for Social Development,”, “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” and “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies”.   Next, the Council adopted two draft decisions titled, “Report of the Commission of the Social Development of its fifty-seventh session and provisional agenda and documentation of the fifty-eighth session” and “Nomination of members of the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development”, confirming five candidates.

Non-Governmental Organizations

The Council then turned to the report of the “Committee on Non-governmental organizations at its 2019 regular session” (document E/2019/32, Part 1) and a draft decision contained in document E/2019/L.15.

DANNY DANON (Israel), introducing draft decision “L.15” titled “Application of the non-governmental organization Palestinian Association for Human Rights – Witness for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council”, said that non-governmental organizations bring a very important perspective to the United Nations.  However, as consultative status gives a non-governmental organization special standing at the United Nations, it also comes with the responsibility of providing a full picture of its activities.  “This is not always the case,” he added.  When the Palestinian Association for Human Rights presented its credentials, Israel posed no objection.  But shortly after the end of the session, the United Nations learned that the organization omitted several important facts, including its ties with Hamas.  The organization promotes Hamas’ goals in Lebanon.  In light of this new information, Israel submitted the draft to allow the Committee to seek further information.

The representative of the United States, explaining her delegation’s position, said “L.15” seeks to return to the NGO Committee the application of the non-governmental organization in question for further review due to new information becoming available.  This is a rare exception, as the NGO Committee is capable of considering applications.  In the January 2019, her delegation joined consensus in the NGO Committee to recommend consultative status.  However, allegations of affiliations with Hamas have since surfaced and must be examined.  No terrorist organization should receive Economic and Social Council accreditation.

The Council then adopted “L.15” by a recorded vote of 28 in favour to 15 against, with 5 abstentions (Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Denmark, Ethiopia).

The representative of the United Kingdom said the involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations was an essential part of the work of the United Nations.  In the case of the non-governmental organization in question, further consideration is needed, hence his delegation voted in favour of “L.15”.

The representative of India, noting the important work non-governmental organizations contribute to the United Nations, said that given the current information available, her delegation voted in favour of “L.15”.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the right for non-governmental organizations to receive consultative status remains at the centre of the NGO Committee’s work.  However, his delegation did not support the Economic and Social Council reviewing applications.  Indeed, most Council members do not have all the information on a non-governmental organization, as NGO Committee members do.  For these reasons, his delegation did not support “L.15”.

The representative of Denmark said due to the dissolution of his country’s Government today, his delegation cast an abstention.

The representative of Iran said Israel is blocking several applications of non-governmental organizations that question Israeli practices, and there should be no double standards in considering non-governmental organizations.

The Council then adopted, as amended, draft decision I titled “Applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification received from non-governmental organizations”.  It also adopted draft decision II titled “Withdrawal of consultative status of the non-governmental organization China Energy Fund Committee” and draft decision III titled “Report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organization on its 2019 regular session”.


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