The activities of the Economic and Social Council, carried out through its subsidiary bodies in cooperation with the specialized agencies, have touched on all aspects of human well-being and affected the lives of people everywhere. A list of the major spheres of activity supervised by the council is given below; the chapters on Economic and Social Development, Technical Cooperation Programs, Social and Humanitarian Assistance, and Human Rights contain further information on matters directly under its purview.
Economic Development. Although this field encompasses both developed and developing nations, emphasis is on the problems of the latter group. The activities of the council include evaluating long-term projections for the world economy; fostering international trade, particularly in commodities, between industrialized and nonindustrialized countries; improving the international flow of private and public capital; promoting industrialization and the development of natural resources; resolving related political and legal issues, such as permanent sovereignty over natural resources and land reform; developing programs of technical cooperation for developing nations; and applying the latest innovations of science and technology to improve the industrialization of developing countries.
Social Progress. Among the social problems handled under the aegis of the council are housing, population, international traffic in narcotic drugs, the welfare of children in the developing countries, and the status of the world's refugees, the aging, and the disabled. Particular attention is paid to the role of women in development.
Human Rights. The council and its subsidiary organs have elaborated a series of important principles for the promotion of fundamental freedoms. Measures include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a number of declarations and recommendations on specific rights—for example, the rights of women, freedom of information and the press, and racial equality. The most recent declaration was adopted in Vienna in June 1993, namely, the "Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action."
Related Special Problems. An example of a special problem of interest to the council is the improvement of statistical techniques, since efficient statistics are essential to economic and social development. Work in this field includes techniques to improve world statistics in specific economic branches, such as industry and finance; standards of national statistical services; and methods of comparing statistics from different countries.
Problems Dealt with by the UN Related Agencies. The specialized agencies, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertake a wide range of activities in the economic and social fields. It is a function of the council to coordinate these activities. Accounts of each of the related agencies are given in the separate chapters devoted to them.